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College Football Picks Week 1: Georgia At Clemson, Alabama Vs. Virginia Tech, Temple At Notre Dame, LSU Vs. TCU, Ohio State, Texas A&M, More

No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson plus 9 more games below
  By Brad Carroll  
College football kicked off Thursday night with a pair of wild games (Ole Miss beating Vanderbilt and Fresno State topping Rutgers in overtime) and a victory by No. 6 South Carolina over North Carolina. It was a fun and exiting debut, as college football was back to its rightful place as center of the sports universe.

But those games were just an appetizer for the main course this weekend, as there will be plenty of games to watch and follow Saturday, including some mega matchups that could have national title implications. Yes, Week 1 could go a long way in determining who's who among title contenders and those that may see their championship dreams end before the season even gets going.

There's a host of teams who will have the spotlight Saturday night, but the matchup with the most on the line is No. 5 Georgia traveling to take on No. 8 Clemson in primetime. When the final whistle blows in that blockbuster, one team will continue its march to the top of the rankings, while the other will have a season-long quest to work its way back into the title game conversation.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Horrible White Sox Come Into Town For Three

  By Matt Straub  
As disappointing as Thursday night’s loss to Baltimore was, the Boston Red Sox once again did their job at home, winning two of three and further solidifying their hold on first place in the AL East. After a number of difficult series, the Red Sox must now show their professionalism by focusing on the task at hand, which is three games against the Chicago White Sox starting tonight at Fenway Park.

An absolutely huge series against Detroit looms large next week, but Boston can’t afford to think that far ahead. The Red Sox, after all, lead the East comfortably at this point, but not so comfortably that they can afford to give games away against bad teams.

This is a very different White Sox team than the one which used to be a must-see when I was in college and could go to the park once a week. Gone are the days of Frank Thomas. These aren’t even the White Sox of the last decade, who often competed for division titles, winning a World Series as recently as 2005.
 

Mets What's On Tap: Surging Nationals Host Mets For Three Games

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets head back on the road for nine straight games, beginning with a three-game series against the surging National in Washington Friday night. The Mets went 3-6 on their just concluded homestand, but the losing on the field doesn't compare to what has happened off it.

Starting pitchers Jeremy Hefner and Jenrry Mejia both underwent surgery this week and ace Matt Harvey might have to do the same. If Harvey ends up needing Tommy John surgery, as Hefner did, he will miss most if not all of next season. That would be an unbelievable blow to the organization, something they might not be able to recover from. There is still a chance Harvey doesn't need surgery, which is what the pitcher, the team and the fans are all hoping and praying for.

In better injury news, David Wright is starting to rehab and is hoping to return to the team this season. While it doesn't make much sense for Wright to rush back to a team that has no shot at the postseason, it would bring some positive news for a team that has been ravaged by the bad. It just might give the team and fanbase something to look forward to next season.

Yankees What's On Tap: Huge Stretch Begins With Three Against Orioles

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees just can't seem to keep momentum on their side in their quest for the postseason. One week the Yankees look like world-beaters, playing so well there's no question the team will pull off the minor miracle and make the playoffs. The next, the Yankees look like they forgot how to play baseball, especially after losing two of three games to the Blue Jays to start this week.

It's made for a completely frustrating time for the team and their fans. It's also made the uphill climb to the postseason look more like scaling Mount Everest. That's how bad the series loss to the Blue Jays hurts their postseason chances. It's taken away all room for error.

Simply said, the Yankees, at the least, have to win every single series from here on out. They also need to throw in a bunch of sweeps along the way. There's only nine series left this season, four against bad teams, the White Sox, Blue Jays, Giants and Astros. The Yankees also have seven games against the Orioles, seven against the Red Sox and three against the Rays.

2013 College Football Picks Week 1: North Carolina At South Carolina, Plus Johnny Manziel Suspended

Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina last year. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The college football season is a little less than a day away, but already there is a buzz surrounding the latest controversy within the sport. The NCAA and Texas A&M have collectively suspended reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel for, get this!, one half of one game against Rice. Yes, Manziel will sit out two quarters of football for what had become a national story with non-stop speculation surrounding the quarterback.

This suspension proves the NCAA had nothing on Manziel allegedly signing autographs for money, but wanted to make some kind of stand anyway. All the NCAA did in this case was prove again it is the worst sports organization in the nation. It would rival even FIFA, which is on the border of complete corruption.

The NCAA is a joke and it's apparent now more than ever. The organization even had to take down their merchandise section of their website, which sold Manziel Texas A&M jerseys, along with a host of other jerseys. There isn't a more hypocritical governing body in all of sports, that's for certain.

With all that negativity comes promise, however, as the college football season, the one where the games are played and the outcomes determined on the field, begins for real Thursday night. A host of programs will return to the field over the next four days and fans across the world will return to the ritual of watching it all unfold. Football season is here, and there isn't a greater time than that.

College Football Conference And National Championship Picks, Alabama, Georgia, Stanford, Oregon

  By Craig Carroll  
Believe it or not, the college football season is just days, hours, away from kicking off. This Thursday represents a new beginning for college programs across the nation and their fans to immerse themselves in a weekly tradition that can't be rivaled. Each and every week, each and every game, means something in college football. And that's what makes it great.

For us here at GameDay, it represents the renewed rivalry in our college football picks championship challenge, where we'll pick the best games of the week (against the spread to boot). This is the ninth season of college football picks, with the challenge evolving to include myself, Glenn Carroll and the originator, Brad Carroll. So look out for those can't-miss weekly picks columns right here leading into the weekend.

But before we get to the Week 1 picks, here is a look at our selections for the end-of-year conference champions and who will walk away with the big prize, the BCS national championship.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Matt Harvey Injured; Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares Trending Up, Ike Davis, Dice-K, LaTroy Hawkins Down

  By Matt Straub  
The New York Mets have brought many of their problems on themselves in recent years. A series of personnel decisions and outside factors have taken their team from playoff contender to also-ran to laughing stock for the span of a decade.

There have also been, however, a number of events outside of the Mets’ control which have compounded their problems. Monday was the latest example of why many believe the Mets are a snakebitten franchise.

The Mets had big plans for the 2014 season. With the continued maturation of their young players and some money to spend on veterans, the Mets believed they were going to take a big step forward next season. Driving that growth was Matt Harvey, their young ace who had become a star on and off the field this year. On the mound, he was one of the two or three best pitchers in the National League. Off the field, he was becoming a media darling, giving the Mets a chance to matter again on the big stage.

Then came Monday’s announcement. Harvey has a partially torn UCL. The team and the pitcher put on a good face during the various press conferences, saying they hope rest and rehabilitation can heal the injury, giving Harvey a chance to pitch either at the end of this season or the beginning of next. They sounded like anyone who has ever been in denial.

Mets What's On Tap: Matt Harvey's Injury Clouds Series Against Phillies

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets come into their three-game series with the Phillies starting Monday night reeling from losses both on and off the field. First, the team was swept in three games at home against the Tigers, making it four losses in a row overall. Second, and way more important, the team has lost young phenom pitcher Matt Harvey for the season with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow. The All-Star Game starter might need Tommy John surgery, which would be the ultimate blow to the organization and the pitcher.

A decision on that surgery will be made in two or three weeks, when the swelling subsides. That surgery is something the team and Harvey desperately want to avoid. If Harvey does undergo Tommy John surgery, he would likely miss most if not all of next season in addition to this season. It's exactly the news the team and their fans did not want to hear.

Harvey is ready to battle the surgery, just like he's battled the opposition all season long.

Yankees What's On Tap: Sweeping 3 In Toronto The Goal For Yankees

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees saved their season with an extra-inning victory over the Rays Sunday afternoon, now they get to look forward to making up some ground in the playoff hunt against a team they've owned this season. The Yankees travel to Toronto for the first of three games starting Monday night, playing a Blue Jays team they've beaten 10 straight times and are 12-1 overall against.

But all of those gaudy numbers could be broken down to nothing in an instant if the Yankees lose this series. They might just have to sweep to truly get themselves back in prime position to take over at least the second wild card spot. The Yankees trail the Athletics by 3.5 games entering Monday, but they also have to jump the Orioles and Indians to get there.

With 32 games to play, that won't be easy. Luckily, teams like the Blue Jays remain on the schedule, including this three-game series and one more three-game set in mid-September.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Robinson Cano, David Huff, Derek Jeter Trending Up, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Mark Reynolds Down

  By Brad Carroll  
In a week that ended with the New York Yankees winning five of seven games against the Blue Jays and Rays, it seems almost unreal the team's season was on the brink of destruction Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. It was that game, the series finale against the Rays, where a victory would keep the team's playoff chances alive, while a loss would all but end what had become an amazing comeback this season.

With a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly in the 11th inning and then a Mariano Rivera save, the Yankees did indeed extend this season another week, winning 3-2 and taking one of three games against the Rays. The Yankees needed to win two of the games to continue their unlikely climb to a postseason berth quickly, but the one win keeps their push alive. A sweep would have resulted in an unceremonious end.

The series loss wasn't an absolute killer thanks to a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays to start the week.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, Xander Bogaerts Trending Up, Jacoby Ellsbury, Junichi Tazawa, Brayan Villarreal Down

  By Matt Straub  
It’s amazing how quickly things can change. A week ago the Boston Red Sox were a team in turmoil, having lost consecutive series and dealing with a bit of infighting after David Ortiz publicly criticized Ryan Dempster.

Seven days later, the Red Sox are rolling again and coming off perhaps their finest moment of the season, winning two-of-three in Los Angeles against the mighty Dodgers. Suddenly, the Red Sox head into a big homestand with a winning road trip in their pocket and the momentum which comes with their reemergence of their status as a championship contender.

Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays have made the AL East a fight, but the Red Sox are starting to look like they’re ready for the fight again. Boston finished the trip’s six games with a 1.12 ERA to go with its 4-2 mark, making a huge turn towards steadying a pitching staff and particularly a bullpen which appeared confused just days ago.

Jets 24, Giants 21: Giants' 3 In Review From Another Poor Performance

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Giants couldn't have had a better start to their preseason rivalry game with the New York Jets Saturday night. When David Wilson broke free for an 84-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, it looked like the team's offensive woes this preseason would be nothing to worry about. But that one run ended up being the only highlight for Big Blue in a 24-21 overtime loss.

The offense again wasn't a a cohesive unit, as Eli Manning even missed an open Hakeem Nicks for what would have been an easy, long touchdown pass. Manning has struggled for two consecutive games now, with this latest one resulting in an 8-for-20 completion rate. If the offense continues to play like this in the regular season it could be a long season.

The Giants defense played well, collecting five turnovers in the game, but that may have had more to do with the ineffectiveness of rookie quarterback Geno Smith than anything else. Still, when given five turnovers, the Giants managed just 21 total points, including two from a safety where Smith ran out of the back of the end zone. That lack of capitalization isn't going to win many games either.

Jets 24, Giants 21: Jets' 3 In Review, Including Quarterback Competition

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Jets defeated the New York Giants 24-21 in overtime Saturday night. But for what should have been an enjoyable win over their rivals, coach Rex Ryan was left defending his decision to play quarterback Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter, a move that backfired when the should-be starter was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury.

So, for a game with a lot of positives, namely the defense showing glimpses of just how good they can be this season, the focus is again on a quarterback competition gone completely awry. Read more about the terrible decision to play Sanchez here and the moment Ryan may have proven he's in over his head here.

For now, here's a look at our Three Things To Watch preview story and how each translated on the field.

Clueless Rex Ryan Proves He May Be In Over His Head As Head Coach By Botching Quarterback Situation

Jets coach Rex Ryan. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Jets defeated the rival Giants in overtime Saturday night, but the only thing that matters today is the status of quarterback Mark Sanchez. Coach Rex Ryan foolishly decided to put Sanchez, the likely Week 1 starter, into the game in the fourth quarter with the backups. That's all well and good for a quarterback fighting for his spot on the team, but not a player who needs to be ready to take all the snaps when the regular season begins in two weeks.

It would have been a moronic decision even if Sanchez led the team to victory in the final 11 or so minutes. But the stupidity of the move only increased when Sanchez was hit hard on a completion and fell to the ground writhing in pain, grasping his throwing shoulder. Sanchez tried to throw the ball when he later made it to the sideline, but couldn't do it, and was soon walking to the locker room with his shoulder wrapped. He got an X-ray, which the results still haven't been made public.

A lot of examples could be put forth about why Ryan hasn't done a good job coaching this team in his tenure, but for the most part, we believed he was still the right man for the job. For the first time, however, that all changed with his decision Saturday night. Ryan had no idea what he did by putting Sanchez in the game against the Giants. He didn't think anything was wrong, which is a scary thought for a head coach.

Mark Sanchez Injures Shoulder As Jets Make Moronic Decision To Play Him In Fourth Quarter

Mark Sanchez down after getting injured Saturday. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
It's official: The New York Jets have no idea what they are doing. Whether it was the idea of head coach Rex Ryan or if the directive came from general manager John Idzik, the decision to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter behind a backup offensive line was completely moronic. Sanchez replaced Geno Smith in the game, even with the threat of putting a starting quarterback in harm's way.

Well, harm found Sanchez when he was smashed in the shoulder after a completion. Sanchez writhed in pain on the ground for several moments, grasping his shoulder, before being able to walk to the sideline. Sanchez tried to warm up by throwing, but couldn't do it. He quickly had his shoulder wrapped and walked back to the locker room for an X-ray. Sanchez might be injured badly. He might just have a stinger. Either way, he should have never been put in that situation.

No coach or general manager or organization would ever put a starting quarterback in that position. Expect, of course, the New York Jets.

Jets Vs. Giants Preseason Preview: Three Things To Watch For Jets, Including Geno Smith Starting At QB

  By Brad Carroll  
Leave it to the New York Jets to do things a little bit differently than the rest of the league. In the third preseason game Saturday night against the Giants, the Jets still don't have a starting quarterback, which is no way to go into the most important game before the real thing begins. It's completely backwards from how every other team in the NFL operates.

And the fact the Jets are going against the norm isn't a good thing. In fact, it could derail the chances of the team succeeding early on, when chemistry and having everyone on the same page is paramount. The Jets will not have that on offense, for sure, as the leader of the unit still hasn't been determined. That leader also won't have a chance to be the true No. 1 in game conditions until Week 1 of the regular season. It's not a recipe for success.

Geno Smith gets the start Saturday, his first of the preseason, and could end up playing into the third quarter. Mark Sanchez, the backup in this game, played three quarters last week against Jacksonville, so it wouldn't surprise if Smith was given the same opportunity. The difference between this game and last week, however, is the fact Smith will be given the chance to win the starting job, while Sanchez could only lose it.

Giants Vs. Jets Preseason Preview: Three Things To Watch For Giants, Including A Revamped Offensive Line

  By Brad Carroll  
The third preseason game is typically the final dress rehearsal for NFL teams in preparation for the regular season. Saturday night in the annual rivalry game between the Jets and Giants, that is no different. But while the Giants will be getting their final look at the starting offense and defense before taking the field for real in Week 1, the Jets will be still trying to figure things out.

The better position to be in is obviously the Giants, as every team should have both their starting offense and defense all but set and ready to play at least the first half. That's exactly where the Giants are. There will still be players battling for positions, both starters and backups, but at this point, this game is about developing chemistry between those who will be on the field when it matters most.

Mets What's On Tap: Matt Harvey Takes On Max Scherzer Again At Citi

  By Brad Carroll  
From playing the team with the best record in the National League, to playing the team with the best record in the American League, things don't get any easier for the New York Mets this week. The Mets split a pair of games against the Braves to start the week, the latter loss coming in extra innings. Now, the team hosts the Tigers, a team that is tied with the Rangers for the best mark in the AL.

The Mets are 9-7 over their last 16 games, which started with a three-game sweep over the Rockies, an impressive mark for a team that has been out of the postseason picture. The team certainly hasn't given up on the season, which says a lot about the team and manager Terry Collins.

A case easily can be made for firing the manager after this season. But since Collins didn't have much to work with on offense, he most likely will be given another year to bring this team to the postseason. Of course, next year won't be any different if the organization doesn't spend money this upcoming offseason.

Yankees What's On Tap: Huge Playoff Implications As Yankees Travel To Tampa Bay For Three With Rays

  By Brad Carroll  
There isn't a hotter team in baseball right now than the New York Yankees. Not even the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 42 of 50 games at one point, aren't playing better than the newly rediscovered Bronx Bombers. The Yankees answered perhaps their biggest challenge of the season to start the week, as they swept all four games from the Toronto Blue Jays. The challenges only get bigger from here.

Coming off series wins over the Tigers, Angels and Red Sox, the Yankees had to keep the momentum going against a team in last place in the AL East. The Yankees did that. So, even though the Blue Jays are already out of contention, the four-game sweep proved the Yankees are a completely different team than they were three weeks ago. That was when the team hit rock bottom by getting swept by the White Sox.

This team, now led by Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and a rejuvenated Robinson Cano, have completely turned this season around and have put themselves in position to make a serious run at the postseason. After losing three games to a horrible White Sox team three weeks ago, that would have been a pipe dream. Now, thanks to going 11-3 since that series loss to Chicago, the Yankees are six games back of the Red Sox for first place in the AL East and 3.5 behind the Rays and Athletics in the wild card chase.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Storylines Aplenty As Boston Takes On Dodgers

  By Matt Straub  

To say this weekend’s series between the Red Sox and Dodgers is full of storylines might be an understatement. Can the Red Sox build off their work in San Francisco, where they won two games and should have taken three? Will the Red Sox look like their usual jovial selves after David Ortiz took a shot at Ryan Dempster, his own teammate, over last week’s A-Rod beaning? What effect will the fallout from all of that have? How will the Sox use Ortiz without the DH? Will the Red Sox be able to stand up to the spotlight, which will shine on most of these issues and comes from playing one of the hottest teams in the history of baseball?

None of these questions, however, will get the same amount of attention as the trade.

It was about this time last year, August 26 to be exact, when the Red So x and Los Angeles pulled off one of the biggest trades in baseball history The Dodgers got Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto in exchange for a pair of potentially useful minor leaguers (both of whom have had stints in Boston), spare parts, many of which aren’t in Boston any more or ever were, and the right to be rid of some $250 million in payroll commitments.

Mets What's On Tap: Quick Two-Game Series Against Rival Atlanta Braves

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets may be one happy group after returning home from a long West Coast road trip, which began way back on August 9, but the friendly confines of Citi Field might not be such a happy place considering who is waiting in the opposition's dugout over the next week.

The Mets first have a quick, two-game series with the Braves before taking on the American League's best team, the Tigers, for three more. The Mets host Philadelphia for four games after that, but this week will be an ultimate test to see if the team is going to continue to fight in this lost season, or simply go through the motions and hustle to the offseason.

Here's a closer look at how this series against the Braves shakes out.

Yankees What's On Tap: Toronto Comes Into Stadium For Four Games

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees have responded since their season was put on life support after getting swept by the Chicago White Sox earlier this month. Since that depressing three-game setback, the Yankees have won consecutive series over the Tigers, Angels and Red Sox to put themselves back in the postseason hunt. The latter series also may have finally awoken a team that has sleepwalked through most of this season.

With one intentional beaning of Alex Rodriguez by Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster, the Yankees became a team united. The Yankees already were a team on the rise, as the return to the lineup of Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson, along with the addition of Alfonso Soriano, turned what was a pathetic offense into one that could score runs with the best in the league.

After Sunday's pathetic display by Boston, hitting A-Rod for no good reason, the Yankees have a common enemy to go along with a common goal - beat the Red Sox and make the postseason at all costs. It's that mentality that carried the Yankees through their dynasty years. Those teams wanted nothing more than to win. Losing wasn't an option. And sticking it to the Red Sox was paramount.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Marlon Byrd, Travis d'Arnaud, Dillon Gee Trending Up, Pedro Feliciano, Juan Lagares, Ike Davis Down After Long Road Trip

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Mets ended this previous week just like they started it, with a losing streak. The Mets were swept in three games by the Dodgers early on, then won the first two against the Padres before dropping the last two to end their West Coast trip 4-6. The Mets did beat the Twins in a quick, one-game series Monday afternoon to finally head home with some positive momentum.

The most troubling trend for the Mets this season may be the way the team supports their best pitcher, Matt Harvey. Despite having a 2.25 ERA, Harvey has just nine wins this season. As a team, the Mets are 13-12 when Harvey starts. The obvious reason for the struggles is the offense needs major improvements this offseason. Whether or not the Mets have the money to improve that area is another question. But there's no doubt the Mets won't make the playoffs next year either without some major improvements.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez Trending Up, Boone Logan, Dellin Betances, Ichiro Down

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees had one of the more eventful weeks in years, with the good, bad and ugly all being revealed during the seven-game stretch against the Angels and Red Sox.

The good was Alfonso Soriano having one of the most prolific weeks in the history of baseball, batting .484 with five home runs and 18 RBI. The bad was the two losses, one to Los Angeles and one to Boston, where the surging offense reverted back to their old form and couldn't get anything going. The ugly was the intentional beaning of Alex Rodriguez Sunday by the classless Red Sox.

Add all three of those together and it resulted in an impressive 5-2 week for the Yankees, including taking three of four from the Angels and two of three from the Red Sox in Boston. Both were must-win series if the Yankees are going to make a serious run at the postseason, and the team came through.

Red Sox What's On Tap: No Rest As Road Trip To San Francisco Begins

  By Matt Straub  

Adrian Gonzalez would not be a happy man today. The former Red Sox first baseman, who famously complained about the Boston Red Sox playing too many Sunday night games and having to travel, would lose his mind if he saw what Boston had to do today.

The Red Sox are coming off a wild Sunday night game against the hated New York Yankees. Instead of a quick trip, however, or even better a home game, today (I won’t get greedy and ask for a day off), the Red Sox got on a plane which took off at 10:19 a.m. this morning for a trip to San Francisco for a three-game set that starts tonight.

Not tomorrow. Tonight.

Teams capable of winning championships, however, are able to put adversity behind them and take care of business. It’s what the 2011 Red Sox never could accomplish. The Red Sox have struggled of late, but have shown flashes of mental toughness, so we’ll see if they have a good effort in them tonight. We all know the Yankees are fired up after last night’s bizarre events, and it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox can get themselves motivated for a big road trip.

Yankees' Postseason Push Gets Huge Boost From Red Sox After Classless Beaning Of Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez after his home run Sunday. (AP photo)
  By Brad Carroll  
The Boston Red Sox showed their true self Sunday night against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox, in first place mind you, showed they are scared of the Yankees, a team that was 8.5 games back in the division entering the game. The Red Sox showed they are clinging to life in this pennant race. The Red Sox showed they would rather cry to the media about facing Alex Rodriguez than actually try and get him out at the plate - which would always be the best and only way to prove a point.

The Red Sox showed they have no chance to win anything this season. They are a team that has no confidence in themselves or their ability to be anything but a group of whiners and excuse-makers. Worse yet, they proved they are a classless group of players, the lowest common denominator, led by a pitcher that should be suspended for his act of cowardice Sunday night.

But the Red Sox and Ryan Dumpster (sorry, Dempster, auto-correct somehow changes his name to something more appropriate) did something Sunday night that will go a long way in determining the postseason race over the final weeks of the season - they gave the New York Yankees an edge. They brought this fractured New York Yankees team together. They gave the players and fans a reminder that making the playoffs and beating the Red Sox along the way is the greatest achievement in the world and it must be accomplished at all cost, no matter the deficit or improbability.

Thanks, Boston.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Jake Peavy, Will Middlebrooks, Koji Uehara Trending Up, Ryan Dempster, Drake Britton, John Lackey Down

  By Matt Straub  

This was not a good week for the Boston Red Sox. A 2-4 mark was bad enough, but two of the losses were disappointing setbacks against the Toronto Blue Jays in games the Sox gave away. Then came a pounding at the hands of the Yankees Friday night, followed another loss in the rubber game of the series.

All anyone reading this blog is going to want to talk about, however, is Sunday night’s circus/baseball game. So let’s not pretend the rest of the week was that big a deal [though the Sox did allow Rajai Davis to circle the bases on a grounder to the pitcher, then wasted a great Jake Peavy start] and get right to the night the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was officially rekindled.

First, a few thoughts on the beaning itself. For starters, let’s not pretend Dempster wasn’t throwing at A-Rod. I know he has to say the ball got away, but he threw at him twice [I think the second and third pitches were legitimately inside, and when Dempster got to 3-0 and was going to walk him anyway he decided to drill him again].

Jets 37, Jaguars 13: Mark Sanchez Disappoints, Chris Ivory Debuts, Bilal Powell Shines And Braylon Battles

  By Brad Carroll  
When a team puts together a 37-13 victory, even in the preseason, it should bring forth excitement and confidence. Beating a team by 24 points should be looked back on with nothing but great thoughts and a ton of positives. But that wasn't the case when the New York Jets beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by that score Saturday night in the second preseason game of the year.

The Jets had more bad than good in their blowout victory. The first-team defense was lit up by quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars offense, as they couldn't stop one of the worst passers and offenses in the NFL. Gabbert was 13-for-16 for 165 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a thumb injury in the second quarter. Even worse was the injury to Quinton Coples, who will miss 3-to-4 weeks with a hairline fracture in his ankle. Luckily, it happened this early in the preseason.

The Jets offense looked great in the early going, but a turnover and bad decision-making killed a pair of drives inside the 10 that generated zero points and all the good will built early on was gone in an instant.

If the defensive effort doesn't get better, the Jets might not win a game this season. On offense, the two bad plays by quarterback Mark Sanchez, an interception in the end zone and a terrible decision to scramble with six seconds to play in the first half that ran out the clock, won't win him the starting quarterback job. It actually just might have lost him the job, even though rookie Geno Smith didn't play a single down due to injury.

Mark Sanchez Blows Best Chance To Win Starting QB Job, Now It's Up To Geno Smith To Prove He's Ready

  By Brad Carroll  
If anything was learned from watching the New York Jets beat the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday night, it was quarterback Mark Sanchez refuses to make anything easy for himself. Sanchez had a golden opportunity to take what could have been an insurmountable lead in the quarterback competition between him and Geno Smith, as the rookie was forced to miss the game with an ankle injury.

Instead, Sanchez proved again he is the most frustrating starting quarterback in the league right now. Sanchez started the game great, the opposite of last week, as he led a 58-yard scoring drive in three minutes that ended with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland. He led the team to a field goal on the second drive. The third drive, however, is where the old Sanchez showed up.

Sanchez again drove the team down field, but on third and goal from the three, he forced a pass into coverage, looking for Kellen Winslow, and was intercepted by Marcus Trufant. Sanchez was trying to make a play, but he could have pulled it down and tried to run up the middle, which was open if for a brief second. He also could have thrown the ball away. But Sanchez took the chance and was burned.

Giants Vs. Colts: Three Things To Watch As Giants Host Indianapolis

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Giants will entertain the home fans for the first time this new season when they host the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night on national television. The storylines for this week aren't far different than those last week against Pittsburgh, with the running game at the top of the list. Both the rush offense and defense struggled last week, just as they did last season.

There are positives, however, as wide receiver Hakeem Nicks makes his return to the starting lineup. One way to make up for the struggling rush offense is to have a great passing game, and the Giants will be at full strength with Nicks joining Eli Manning and Victor Cruz.

Here's our Three Things To Watch as the Giants play preseason game No. 2 against Indianapolis.

Jets Vs. Jaguars: Three Things To Watch As QB Competition Continues

  By Brad Carroll  
The big news heading into the second preseason game for the New York Jets is the same it was last week and the same it was after Wayne Chrebet announced the Jets' selection of Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft. It's all about the quarterback competition.

Mark Sanchez will start for the second straight game against Jacksonville Saturday night, while Smith will either enter in the second half or not play at all due to an ankle injury. Either way, it appears this competition just might last into the third preseason game against the Giants, a scenario that could end up hurting the team as a whole heading into Week 1 against the Buccaneers.

The third preseason game is typically the one where the starters play well into the third quarter. It's the closest thing to a real game as it gets in the preseason, so the team that will be on the field in Week 1 should be on the field the most in third week of the preseason. The Jets, however, might not go that route, especially if they want to give Smith every opportunity they can to win the starting job.

Yankees At Red Sox, What's On Tap: Biggest Series In Years For Rivals

  By Matt Straub  

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is still the best in sports, and it’s about to get exciting again. Sure, the teams’ fans still hate each other, but the on-field rivalry has lost a bit of its luster. Each team has suffered some setbacks in recent years, with the Red Sox the worst offender, missing the playoffs three years in a row now.

The Yankees had a year where they missed the playoffs (2008), but have had their own share of setbacks in the postseason. Even in years where both teams have been good at the same time, fate has kept them from meeting in the playoffs since 2004.

Making things worse, the wild card, for all it has done to extend the playoff races, has also taken away from the divisional races, making what should have been an historic race between the teams in 2007 meaningless since both made the playoffs.

Last season, however, baseball added a second wild card, pitting the two teams against each other for the right to play the team with the best record in the ALDS. Now, just making the playoffs isn’t the goal, as winning your division ensures you of playing a five-game series instead of a one-game playoff with your season on the line.

The new format affects both teams this season, and makes this weekend’s series between the teams perhaps the biggest they have played in years. The Red Sox, hoping to avoid a one-game playoff, are trying to hold off the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL East crown. The Yankees, suddenly surging their way into the fight for one of the two wild card spots, would love to take this series and both hurt the Red Sox and help their own chances of extending their season.

Mets What's On Tap: West Coast Trip Continues With Four Against Padres

  By Brad Carroll  
The worst case scenario was realized for the New York Mets in their three-game series with the Dodgers to start this week. The Mets, who were on fire coming into the series, were swept, even though they were in every single game. It's exactly the path we wrote it might take in our What's On Tap column setting up the trip to Los Angeles. The Dodgers were so good, the Mets could play great baseball and still get swept.

That, unfortunately for Mets fans still clinging to hope of a postseason miracle, was exactly what happened. And just like that, this Mets season is officially being played for pride, experience and maybe even to ruin some other teams' seasons along the way. It's the position no team nor fan wants to be in, but it's the reality right now for the Mets.

The Mets are 10 games under .500 and sit 18.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East. They are 13 games back of the two wild card leaders, the Cardinals and Reds, so the longshot of a wild card berth just isn't there anymore. The Mets have 44 games remaining, including four in a row against the Padres on this continued West Coast trip starting Thursday night.

Jets Pick Mark Sanchez To Start Preseason Game Against Jaguars

  By Brad Carroll  
Considering New York Jets coach Rex Ryan called rookie Geno Smith "brutal" after practice Wednesday, it should come as no surprise the team has chosen Mark Sanchez to be the starting quarterback Saturday night against the Jaguars. It will be the second straight start of the preseason for Sanchez, who had an impressive week of practice, and leads the quarterback competition.

Smith sprained his ankle during last week's game against Detroit and even though he was able to practice this week, he did not play well and had a terrible practice Wednesday, throwing four interceptions. That practice drew this analysis from Ryan, "It was brutal. That was Geno's worst day, obviously.The ankle is part of it. That's way too many picks. He didn't look comfortable today. It was a bad day. We've seen guys have bad days, but this was a really bad day."

Ryan also said Smith isn't close to 100 percent recovered from the ankle injury, so there's a good chance he might not even play against Jacksonville. That would make it close to impossible for him to win the starting job. The Jets appear willing to extend the competition to the third week of the preseason, but that wouldn't be the smartest move, as starters typically play well into the third quarter of that game. Most starters don't play at all in the final week of the preseason. But the Jets aren't ready to name a Week 1 starter just yet.

Mets What's On Tap: Surging Mets Take On Red-Hot Dodgers On Road

  By Brad Carroll  
Coming off a week where the New York Mets won five of six games, including two of three from the contending Diamondbacks, the team and the fanbase have to be riding high. There haven't been many positives this season, but last week was definitely near the top.

The going doesn't get easier on this long West Coast trip, however, even taking into account the momentum gained. Up next is three games against the red-hot Dodgers in Los Angeles, who have gone from a team ready to fire their manager, to one that could be the best in the National League. The Dodgers are 17 games over .500 and have won five games in a row and nine out of their last 10. They have opened a 7.5-game lead in the NL West on Arizona.

The Mets, on the other hand, are still very much on the outside looking in at a playoff berth. They trail both the Cardinals and Reds by 10 games in the wild card race, a deficit that will be nearly impossible to make up considering we're closing in on mid-August. But the Mets haven't put this season away just yet, and that can only help for next season. Fans can also watch prospect Wilmer Flores continue to grow on the baseball diamond. Flores has nine RBI in his first six games with the big league club. And there's always the pitching of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, although the latter won't take the mound in Los Angeles.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Winning Two Of Three The Goal Against Blue Jays

  By Matt Straub  

This week’s series between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays features exactly what many baseball experts predicted before the season. The next three games will be between a contender in the AL East which has a chance to win the World Series and an also ran full of big names.

What the experts didn’t see coming, however, was a bit of a role reversal. Toronto, which went out and got a bunch of high-priced talent in the offseason, is nowhere near the AL East race. The Red Sox, who made mostly minor moves this winter, are in first place in a year many thought would be better than 2012, but nowhere near a playoff campaign.

If the Red Sox are going to keep marching toward the playoffs, however, they will need to play much better in this series than they did last week against Houston and Kansas City. With a weekend set with a desperate and seemingly ready to bounce back Yankees squad on the horizon, Boston will look to clean up during the early part of the week. Here’s how they can do it. 

Yankees What's On Tap: Four-Game Series Against Struggling Angels

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Yankees saved their season by winning two of three from the Tigers this weekend, including the latter ending with a Brett Gardner walk-off home run to win Sunday's series finale. That victory could set the tone not only for the upcoming series against the Angels, but the entire season as well.

Seemingly every season that culminates with a playoff berth has that one moment where everything locked into place and carried the team to the postseason. Gardner's home run in the bottom of the ninth against one of the baseball's best teams could be that moment for the Yankees. The Yankees certainly hope it is, as they need something to shift momentum as we head to the middle of August.

The Yankees are 10 games out of the AL East lead, and even though they made up 1.5 games this past series over the division-leading Red Sox, it's still a near-impossible quest to grab the division lead. So, the two wild card spots is where the Yankees and their fans need to focus. The Yankees are seven games back of both the Rays and Athletics, which is another tough task in making up ground in a short amount of time. The Yankees also have to jump the Orioles, Indians and Royals just to get into the third spot.

Mets 3 Up & 3 Down: Wilmer Flores, Ike Davis, Matt Harvey Trending Up, David Wright, Jeremy Hefner, Scott Atchison Down during 5-1 Week

  By Brad Carroll  
Don't look now, but the New York Mets are on fire. With seemingly nothing to play for, the Mets have instead played better than they have all season, with the exception of the four-game sweep of the Yankees, winning five of six games against the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Sweeping Colorado is one thing, but taking two of three from playoff-contending Arizona is on a whole new plain.

The Mets are still 10 games out of the two wild card spots, so the uphill climb continues. But they made up two games in two days against one of the teams they have to leapfrog in the standings, the Diamondbacks, and made up two games on one of the leaders, the Cardinals, over the last 10 games. The Mets are two back of the Nationals, 4.5 back of the D-Backs and 10 behind both the Reds and Cardinals, the wild card leaders. The Mets have made up ground, but the winning must continue.

Red Sox 3 Up & 3 Down: Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, Jacoby Ellsbury Trending Up, Mike Napoli, Felix Doubront, Jonny Gomes Down

  By Matt Straub  

There are times when a baseball team can play well and manage to lose tough games due to bad calls or tough breaks. There are other times when a team plays poorly but, either because of poor competition or lucky breaks and favorable calls, manages to steal some wins.

Then there are weeks when a team plays poorly and has its record prove it. Such was the case for the Boston Red Sox, who were lucky to win two in Houston this week (which is not an accomplishment) and then got exposed for its current flaws by the suddenly and randomly hot Kansas City Royals, who took three-of-four from the Red Sox to work themselves into the wild card conversation and make Boston’s lead in the AL East seem tenuous.

Yankees 3 Up & 3 Down: Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, Alex Rodriguez Trending Up, Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson, Andy Pettitte Down

  By Brad Carroll  
For a week that started out embarrassingly bad, with the New York Yankees getting swept by the pathetic White Sox, the end may have brought hope to a season that seemed lost just days earlier. The Yankees ended the week winning two of three games against the red-hot Tigers, perhaps baseball's best team, including the finale Sunday against Justin Verlander.

The last victory is the type that can be looked back on as one that started it all. In this case, it would be a run to the postseason. The Yankees led 4-2 in the ninth, setting up Verlander for the loss, before Mariano Rivera entered the game. But, for the third straight time, Rivera blew the save. If the Yankees went on to lose the game, it would have been the final nail in the coffin. The Tigers, however, could only tie the game. That set up Brett Gardner's game-winning, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

The Yankees had an exciting victory and a series win for the first time in more than a month. Taking two of three from the Tigers, a team that had won 12 straight and 16 of 17 coming into the series, was a monumental task and the Yankees accomplished it. Whether or not they take advantage will only be known with how they play going forward. Suddenly, though, there is hope in the Bronx.

Giants 18, Steelers 13: Three In Review, Looking Back At Our Points To Watch And How It Turned Out

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Giants started the preseason with an 18-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday night. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz appear ready for the regular season already, connecting on a 57-yard touchdown toward the end of the first quarter. The defense, however, had trouble stopping the run with the first team unit in, an obvious problem heading into the real schedule.

Here's a look at our Three Things To Watch from our Giants-Steelers preview and how they panned out on the football field.

1. Wilson vs. Brown: Neither David Wilson nor Andre Brown separated themselves at running back in Pittsburgh. Brown, however, got into coach Tom Coughlin's dog house pretty quickly by fumbling early in the second quarter that gave the Steelers the ball at the Giants' 44. Brown had 23 yards on four carries, a 5.8 average, but that fumble was a huge asterisks on his day. Wilson carried the ball five times for 16 yards. Michael Cox, a seventh-round pick, had nine carries for 33 yards. Da'Rell Scott had 10 carries for 12 yards. Overall, a quiet day from the team's running backs.

Jets Vs. Lions, Three In Review: Looking Back At Our Points To Watch And How It Turned Out On Field

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Jets opened the preseason with a 26-17 loss to the Detroit Lions Friday night. There was a lot of bad, the worst being Mark Sanchez's interception that was returned for a touchdown, and even some good, with the highlight an 80-yard touchdown drive by Sanchez that ended with a 27-yard scoring pass to Jeff Cumberland.

Here's a look at our Three Things To Watch from our Jets-Lions preview and how they panned out on the football field.

1. Sanchez vs. Geno: Sanchez took the lead the quarterback competition with a strong performance against the Lions, even with his back-breaking and morale-crushing interception that was returned for a touchdown. On his first series, Sanchez was intercepted on a screen pass by Lions rookie Ziggy Ansah, who then returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. Sanchez responded in a big way, however, and led an 80-yard touchdown drive on his final series, moving the team downfield easily and showing the type of quarterback he can be. If only he could be that player consistently. Sanchez finished 10-of-13 for 125 yards and a touchdown in about a quarter of play. That interception was a killer, though. Still, Sanchez easily won the battle against Smith.

Mark Sanchez Leads Geno Smith In Jets' Quarterback Competition After First Preseason Game

  By Brad Carroll  
The first preseason game for the New York Jets Friday night couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. Embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez, on the first drive of the new season, threw an interception on a screen pass that was returned for a touchdown. It was exactly what Sanchez and the Jets didn't want to see. It made the few remaining Sanchez supporters jump ship before rookie Geno Smith even took a snap in a real game.

The only good that came from it was it happened on the road. If that happened at home, Sanchez may not have even been allowed to go back on the field.

But since it was in Detroit, Sanchez came back and played very well. Sanchez finished the game 10-for-13 for 125 yards with a touchdown and the back-breaking interception in about a quarter of play. He led an 80-yard drive his final series of the game, picking apart the Lions secondary and ending it with a 26-yard scoring pass to a wide-open Jeff Cumberland. Take away the interception and Sanchez looked like he should be the team's starting quarterback.

Giants Vs. Steelers: 3 Things To Watch As Giants Open Preseason On Road

  By Brad Carroll  
While the New York Giants don't have the headline-generating competitions this summer as the cross-town rival Jets do, there are still some interesting story lines to follow in the preseason opener Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While the quarterback position is solidified (and Giants fans should look at the Mark Sanchez-Geno Smith competition and be thankful for having a no-doubt starter in Eli Manning), there are many other spots where questions remain. It's those battles that make this entire preseason schedule something to watch and study in picking who belongs in the starting lineup, and on the field for that matter, and who doesn't.

Here's the biggest stories to follow Saturday night in Pittsburgh, as we break down the Three Things To Watch as the Giants finally return to the field for some real football. Thank God football is back.

Yankees What's On Tap: Tigers Could Maul Struggling Yankees At Stadium

  By Brad Carroll  
There's been a number of low moments this season for the New York Yankees, but none have been more depressing than watching the Chicago White Sox sweep three games from the humorously-nicknamed Bronx Bombers this week. This is the same White Sox team that began the series with a 10-game losing streak and was already looking forward to next year.

This also happened to a Yankees team that fancies themselves playoff caliber. But the facts are clear now - the Yankees are not a good team. They aren't even a mediocre team. They are bad. When you lose three games to the White Sox, there's nothing good to say or write.

The last two series, against the Padres and White Sox, were supposed to be the ones that got the Yankees back on track. Winning four of six would be considered the minimum for a team trying to work their way back into postseason position against a couple of clubs simply playing out the string. The result was one win out of the six games. One win. The Yankees needed to win all but one game to have some confidence going forward. And they won one game.

Mets What's On Tap: 11-Game Road Trip Begins With Diamondbacks

  By Brad Carroll  
Look who just swept a three-game series at home. The New York Mets, who have been struggling since well before the All-Star break, finally put together a series to be proud of, with the pitching staff allowing just three total runs in three games and the offense doing just enough to get the job done against the Colorado Rockies. It was a series that should give fans and the team hope for a positive finish.

The sweep over Colorado had just about everything a Mets fans could want. First, the three-game sweep was just their second of the season. (The Mets also won two at home and two on the road against the Yankees). Second, Matt Harvey pitched the first complete game shutout of his career, a topper for his already incredible season. Third, rookie Wilmer Flores made his presence known quickly, hitting a three-run double in just the second game of his career Wednesday.

All in all, it was one of the best stretches of the season for the Mets.

Jets Vs. Lions: Three Things To Watch As Jets Take On Detroit In Preseason Opener, Including Sanchez Vs. Smith

  By Brad Carroll  
The New York Jets open the preseason against the Detroit Lions Friday night and all eyes will be on the quarterback competition between Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith. Jets coach Rex Ryan says the competition is even so far through camp, while offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg says Sanchez has earned the right to start the first game with his play early on, giving him an edge.

Whether or not either is to be believed is another story, but the true test for both quarterbacks, the one that will end up determining the starter, begins for real in Detroit. Unlike the training camp battle that has been over-hyped and over-analyzed, preseason games are what everyone should study when determining who should be the team's quarterback. The answers you receive this week, and next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, will give you a better gauge as to who should win the job.

Not surprisingly, that battle leads off our Three Things To Watch during the Jets' opening preseason game of the 2013 season. Above all, rejoice that football season is finally back.

Red Sox What's On Tap: Four-Game Road Matchup With Red-Hot Royals

  By Matt Straub  

The Boston Red Sox probably didn’t deserve to win two of three against the lowly Houston Astros this week, but they did. The standings will show the Red Sox did what they were supposed to do, capture a series win on the road against an awful team and knock another three days off the schedules of the teams trying to catch them in the AL East.

Going forward, however, the Red Sox are going to have to earn some victories. They rallied from a big hole Tuesday and rode Stephen Drew’s huge ninth-inning homer Wednesday to a series win, but will need better pitching and more consistent hitting this week against the Kansas City Royals, who have been among the hottest teams in baseball ever since, you guessed it, the royal baby was born.

So, while the Red Sox have extended their lead in the division, let’s look at how they can win a real series against a team capable of making them pay for mistakes, something Houston simply couldn’t do.

Rock Cats Fake Wedding Proposal On Video, GameDay's Brad Carroll Interviewed on Inside Edition

Brad Carroll was interviewed today on the nationally-televised syndicated news show Inside Edition about the New Britain Rock Cats fake proposal that has garnered national attention. Below is video of the wedding proposal gone wrong, where the woman says "no" in front of the stadium crowd between innings and then sprints away. The episode of Inside Edition is Tuesday night and will be broadcast again tomorrow afternoon.

"The Rock Cats got what they wanted out of the whole situation," Brad Carroll told Matt Straub of the New Britain Herald. "They have a viral video on YouTube, were on national websites and even Inside Edition is doing a story on it. Minor league baseball is all about promotion and the Rock Cats certainly got the national attention they want."