Friday Fodder: NFL schedule released
Special to the Tribune
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
The NFL released its 2014 schedule on Wednesday and the media treated it with more attention than it gave to any of the NBA or NHL playoff matchups. The Oakland Raiders, once again, have the toughest schedule in the league based on 2013 records and the 49ers have the fourth toughest. At first glance, though, the Niners schedule looks much tougher. The Raiders get to play the Jets, Texans, Dolphins, Browns and Bills while the only easy game the Niners have is against the Raiders. The Raiders schedule is always so tough every year because, well, they don’t get to play the Raiders. It’s still April, we haven’t had the draft yet and the first muscles haven’t been pulled. But here is an Bay area prediction: The 49ers will go 13-3 and the Raiders will go 8-8.
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The Nevada Wolf Pack football team’s schedule is the most forgiving the program has had in quite some time. Unlike last year, when there were six games in which the Pack was the clear underdog, there is not a game on the 2014 schedule that the Pack cannot win. All the tough Mountain West games (Boise State, San Diego State, Colorado State, Fresno State) are at home and all the easy games (San Jose State, Hawaii, Air Force, UNLV) are on the road. There is no excuse for the Pack to turn in anything less than an 8-4 season.
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Just like in 2010 when it had Colin Kaepernick, the Wolf Pack should have the best quarterback (Cody Fajardo) on the field in all 12 of its games this year. The Mountain West lost a ton of good quarterbacks from 2013, including Derek Carr, Brett Smith, David Fales, Sean Schroeder, Joe Southwick and Caleb Herring. Fajardo should be voted the pre-season Mountain West Player of the Year. You should be able to win at least two-thirds of your games with the best quarterback every weekend.
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The Wolf Pack baseball team has won 10 of its last 12 Mountain West games and finds itself right in the thick of the race for the regular season conference title. The Pack, now 21-17 overall, won two thrilling 9-8 games last weekend over Fresno. State. The two best teams in the league right now are the Wolf Pack and New Mexico. If the Pack had was hosting the Mountain West tournament this year (like it will next year) we would pencil them in for a NCAA Regional spot right now. But no matter what happens over the next month — the college baseball season, after all, doesn’t really begin every year until May — rookie head coach Jay Johnson has shown that he is building something special at Peccole Park.
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Starting this spring and continuing through this coming fall, Johnson and football coach Brian Polian should end all the questions and anxiety surrounding their rebuilding programs after the losses of legendary coaches Gary Powers (baseball) and Chris Ault (football). Polian had a rocky first year last fall but that was mainly due to a ridiculous schedule. It was a schedule, after all, that scared Ault into a hasty retirement. Johnson and Polian, on the surface at least, seem to be clones of each other. They are both young and both full of energy and positive thoughts. And their players seem to love playing for them. In short, they are the anti-Powers and Ault.
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It is difficult to get excited about the NBA playoffs this spring. No team is playing all that well and until LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both retire to sell cell phones, sports cars and sneakers full-time, you have to think the Miami Heat will complete its three-peat this June. Has any repeat champion in NBA history had less appeal than the Heat? But it’s not really the Heat’s fault. The league just doesn’t seem to have the magic it once did when it had great champions like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls for a two-decade period in the 1980s and 90s. It’s not quite professional boxing or the NHL just yet but the NBA is headed on that path to oblivion.
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Replay is slowly killing major league baseball. It takes too long, it grinds an already slow sport to a halt and managers are abusing the system, questioning almost every call. It is simply zapping all of the emotion out of the game for the viewer. When something important happens, it’s hard to get all that excited about it until the inevitable replay process is over. And, to top it off, the umpires don’t get all the calls right even with replay. Baseball needs to get rid of replay and it need to stop trying to be football. Let the umpires do their jobs. No sport misses more calls and makes more bad calls than basketball and you don’t see that sport implementing replay, do you?
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