To say that Yordan Alvarez was pretty good in the American League Championship Series is an understatement. Saying he was on fire the last two games of the ALCS is pretty accurate. Alvarez, who was named the series MVP, was virtually unstoppable in the final two games. In fact, in games five and six, he outhit the entire Red Sox by himself. The ball may be looking huge to him right now and the Houston Astros are hoping that stays.
The Astros and the Atlanta Braves will meet starting Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. Alvarez will be playing in his second World Series after appearing in the 2019 Fall Classic as a rookie against the Washington Nationals. Alvarez’s been a skilled acquisition for the Astros. However, if not for former GM Jeff Luhnow, he may not have ever come to Houston.
The Dodgers signed Alvarez as an international free agent after two seasons in the Cuban National Series. The Astros traded for him in 2016 for reliever Josh Fields. Alvared would make his professional debut in 2016 with the Dominican Summer League Astros, and began 2017 with the Quad City River Bandits. During this time, he was promoted to the Blues Creek Astros. He appeared in the All-Star Futures Game.
While with AA Corpus Christi in 2018, he was ranked among the top minor league prospects in the game. This earned him a promotion to the Fresno Grizzlies of Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He hit a combined .293/.369/.534 with 20 home runs, and 74 RBI. The 2019 season for Alvarez with the Round Rock Express of the PCL finished as follows: .343/.443/.742 with 23 home runs, 71 RBI, 38 walks, and 50 runs before he was called up on June 9, 2019.
Alvarez made his MLB debut against the Baltimore Orioles and went 1 for 3 with a two-run home run. In 87 games with the Astros, he batted .313 with 27 home runs, 75 RBI, and had a slugging percentage of .655, which was the highest in history for a qualified rookie. He helped lead the Astros to the World Series and hit his first postseason home run in Game Five’s victory. After the season, he would win the American League Rookie of the Year award unanimously.
The 2020 season would be one to forget for Alvarez. He sat out at the start of the season due to testing positive for COVID-19. He would return in August but only play two games due to knee issues that would cause him to have arthroscopic surgery on both knees and shut him down for the season.
Alvarez would rebound from his lost 2020 season and play well in 2021. He finished the regular season batting .277 with 33 home runs and 105 RBI, helping the Astros win the AL West division. He’s been successful this postseason; now just hope he can keep his hot streak going in the World Series. Should he stay hot, it’ll go a long way in the Astros winning their second World Title in five seasons. For him, it would be his first and the perfect way to end the season after a lost one.
It was never close for the New England Patriots, delivering an old fashioned beat-down of the Jets on Sunday. The Jets first quarter woes continued as the Patriots raced out to a 14-point lead in the opening frame. The 31 points at halftime were a season high for New England, and they had another half remaining. The final score was reflective of what players had been saying all week: we’re better than a 2-4 football team. The problem was, they hadn’t shown it yet. Sure, they’re a handful of plays away from being 6-1, but the good teams in the league make those handfuls of plays.
This edition of the Patriots features a lot of new faces that are learning the New England way. The Belichick idioms of “let the opponent beat themselves” has often seemed to be this team’s mantra. And while the team didn’t need the Jets to make the big crucial mistake, the Pats played relatively mistake free football for 60 minutes Sunday-a huge improvement from the previous 6 games. The final score, 54-13, included the most points a team has scored this season (54) and the largest margin of victory (41), beating the previous mark held by the Bills against the Texans (40).
The Jets are the New England Patriots’ little brother
Sure, it’s the Jets; the Patriots proverbial punching bag for the last two decades. Sunday stretched the streak of consecutive wins against Gang Green to 12 in a row, just three shy of the team record of 15, held against the Bills. But beating the teams you’re supposed to beat is what the good teams do. Just a few weeks ago the Pats had to do everything in their power to escape with a three-point win against the Texans, another team they were supposed to beat.
But on Sunday, it wasn’t enough to just beat the Jets. The Pats wanted to make a statement, get some confidence going, and remind their New York neighbors that they still feature the team’s little brother. The Patriots emptied the play book, calling trick plays like they were down 14 points to the Ravens in the Divisional round. And after pulling the starters late in the fourth, had the backups throwing long balls and racking up points in garbage time.
Read on to find out the positives and negatives of this contest.
Odds and Ends
The opening touchdown, a pass from WR Kendrick Bourne to WR Nelson Agholor, had perfect timing in the game and in history. 20 years ago this week the Pats played in a game that featured one of the single best performances in history. WR David Patten threw for a touchdown, caught a touchdown, and ran in a touchdown in a 38-17 beatdown of the Peyton Manning led Colts.
That pass was Bourne’s first since high school.
Jonnu Smith was having what looked like his breakout game before leaving with an injury late in the first quarter.
If Smith misses time, the Pats may finally utilize last years third round pick; Devin Asiasi. Asiasi has been a healthy scratch through 7 games this year.
The Pats went for it a fourth down! In the second quarter while already up 24-7.
The Patriots offensive line looked solid, helping the rushing game (32 carries for 148 yards and 4 touchdowns). Most importantly, they kept Mac Jones clean, allowing one sack and three quarterback hits.
The Mac Attack Rolls On
Mac Jones now has as many TD passes as Cam Newton did with the Patriots (8).
Mac’s 174 completions are second most all time for a rookie QB. Joe Burrow has the record with 195.
Mac also became the fourth rookie QB all-time to throw for 225 yards and a TD in five consecutive games. The other four? Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, and Deshuan Watson. From a football perspective, great company to keep.
Did Nick Saban and Bill Belichick get together to clone Brady?
Mac now has more completions over 20 yards in the last two games than in the first five games.
Mac, who has been criticized as a checkdown master, threw for 300 yards in his 7th game as a pro. For comparison, rocket-armed Josh Allen threw for 300 yards for the first time in his 28th career game. Perception is not often reality.
Jamie Collins only played 16 snaps even with Dont’a Hightower as a gameday inactive.
Harvey Langi started in Hightower’s spot before leaving a with knee injury.
Rookie DT Christian Barmore led all defensive linemen with 41 snaps. He is consistently getting pressure and will see huge numbers once he starts finishing those plays.
With effort like this, Matt Judon is putting himself squarely in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Little thing that may not have been noticed during the live broadcast. Having solid offensive line play drives offensive success. Often the kind of things that O-linemen must do are small but end up being all the difference.
Jonathan Jones was placed on IR today with his shoulder injury requiring surgery. The Pats had previously elevated Myles Bryant to the active roster, who like Jones, splits time between safety and slot corner. Joejuan Williams played his best game as a pro on Sunday and the Pats will need more of that going forward as DB depth is getting perilously thin. Rookie Shaun Wade hasn’t practiced since week 4 with a concussion.
Popular fan trade target Jason McCourty was also placed on IR today and will require season ending surgery for his foot injury.
What lies ahead for the New England Patriots?
With the trade deadline approaching, three spots that the Pats may try to shore up: defensive back, defensive line, and running back depth. The Pats have just $4 million in cap space, so a blockbuster move seems unlikely. If I were the Pats, I’d call old friend Nick Caserio in Houston and see who they are willing to part with. Plenty of ex-Pats on cheap contracts down there.
The New England Patriots currently sit 9th in the AFC with the top 7 making the playoffs. The good news? Pats are 3-1 in the conference which may become a major player for tie breaker scenarios.
Good teams win the games they’re supposed to, and maybe that’s what’s in New England: a good team. Next week will be another measuring stick-a contest in LA against an AFC contender in the Chargers. The Pats showed on Sunday they are capable of putting together a complete game. They just need to continue to do it week in and week out if they want to have a chance for something this season.
The Tennessee Volunteers went on the road and took a top-5 Alabama team into the final quarter. The final score does not depict just how close this game was; the Vols played hard enough to win for all four quarters. So, what happened?
Hendon Hooker continues to impress
Coming into the season, Tennessee fans were unsure of who was going to be the man under center for the Volunteers. That question has since been answered with the phenomenal play of Hendon Hooker. The Virginia Tech transfer threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns against the ‘Tide, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Tillman.
Hooker kept the Vols in the game all the way into the fourth quarter. He threw his first interception as a starter on a miscommunication with his receiver that put the game out of reach for the Vols and began Alabama’s fourth quarter run. Hooker finished the game 19-28 with 282 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 interception.
The 4th Quarter dooms Vols
The score was 17-24 in favor of the ‘Tide entering the fourth quarter; it appeared that Tennessee was going to take this game down to the final minutes. Queue the unlikely miscues and iffy officiating. Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young ran the ball in from 6 yards out to open the fourth quarter scoring.
However, Young fumbled the football as he was breaking the plane of the end-zone. After further review, the official confirmed the fumble but said it was recovered by Alabama. The only problem was Makai Hadden of Tennessee came out of the pile with the ball. This call, as well as the Hooker interception, took all the wind out of Tennessee’s upset-minded sails.
The Vols enter a bye week as Josh Heupel gets his first chance to show fans how well his teams prepare for opponents coming off a bye. The Vols will travel to Lexington and play SEC East rival Kentucky November 6th. This bye week is timely as Tennessee looks to get fully healthy for the first time all season.
The Cincinnati Bengals have arrived. In Week 7, they took the Baltimore Ravens to task with a 41-17 blowout win in Baltimore, a week after a similar result in Detroit. We’re starting to run out of reasons to doubt this team that easily could be 6-0 right now with a bit more luck.
This one was a complete team win for the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite another slow start on offense, they rattled off 28 unanswered points in the second half. Lamar Jackson put up 345 yards of total offense and it still wasn’t anywhere close to enough to overcome an absolutely dominating effort by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense
Quarterback grade: A
It wasn’t a perfect game for #9. But, Burrow flashed his impeccable pocket presence all day against the Ravens. He didn’t let his mistakes turn into patterns and still managed to put up 416 yards and three touchdowns through the air. His chemistry and trust in his receivers was on full display as he carved up the Ravens’ secondary.
Unfortunately, that trust in Ja’Marr Chase bit him early in the fourth quarter. He slightly overthrew Chase on a touchdown attempt, likely expecting Chase to either come down with it or knock the ball away. Instead, Marlon Humphrey came up with a pick in the end zone that looked like it might give the Ravens a chance to build some late momentum.
It was a script the Ravens have executed many times this season. It’s also one the Cincinnati Bengals have been on the wrong side of many times in Zac Taylor’s career. The interception would be Burrow’s final pass attempt of the night. But, his performance to that point proved to be enough to allow the Bengals to coast the rest of the game after a big defensive stop.
Running Back grade: B+
Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine didn’t have a ton of opportunities to touch the ball this week. But, they were generally pretty efficient when they did. Early in the game, there were some pretty head-scratching inefficiencies running the ball on third and short. But, ultimately both running backs finished with over 4.7 yards per run. You’ll take numbers like that all day long.
At the end of the day, all that efficiency only translated to just over 50 rushing yards for either back. But, there’s something major to be said about both players putting up touchdowns on back to back drives in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The scores iced the game for a Cincinnati Bengals team that was already playing with extreme confidence. But, the second Mixon broke that 21-yard run into the end zone, you knew the game was basically over.
Then, Perine hit one for 46 yards on the next drive. There’s no coming back from that.
Wide Receiver grade: B+
How can I criticize this unit too much when Ja’Marr Chase goes absolutely off for 201 yards and a touchdown? One of which was an absolutely mesmerizing 82-yard catch-and-run where he broke three tackles before sprinting down the length of the field.
That play broke the game wide open at 27-17 and might go down as one of the greatest highlights in Bengals history.
It was a struggle for the rest of the unit. Tee Higgins overcame an up and down first half performance to make an impact in the second half. In fact, at one point, he caught an 11-yard pass and absolutely trucked the defender for a key 3rd down conversion.
That came despite a defensive pass interference and the Bengals ended up with the ball at the 9 after looking like they might get stopped at midfield. Unfortunately, the end of that drive saw Burrow’s interception so the good plays from the drive will likely be forgotten about.
Tyler Boyd also struggled to make much of an impact for the Cincinnati Bengals. He did have a nice 25-yard catch at the beginning of that interception drive. But, the rest of his night was pretty quiet.
Tight End grade: B+
Drew Sample continues to be a complete non-factor in this offense. Zac Taylor’s tenure is starting to be known for very good performances in the draft. But, Sample is starting to look like a complete whiff. The Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but he’s only caught two of his five targets this year. He no longer appears to be part of this team’s offensive thought process.
CJ Uzomah, on the other hand, is having a career year so far. He’s already at 256 yards receiving and five touchdowns on the year. Two of those touchdowns came on Sunday in the form of 55 and 32 yarders that helped the Bengals keep pace with the Ravens offense, before the game broke wide open late in the third quarter.
Another reception late in the second quarter gave him a final tally of 91 receiving yards on the day. One more catch and he could have broken the 100-yard mark.
Offensive line grade: B+
Joe Burrow was sacked HOW MANY TIMES against the Ravens? That’s right, once. This is a Ravens team that came into this game tied with the Bengals for the 10th most sacks in the NFL. Jackson Carman, in particular, had a really nice game.
That’s huge, because the Cincinnati Bengals really need him to develop into a franchise right guard after making the controversial decision to trade down in the draft for him. Over the last couple of weeks, he seems to be showing that was a good call.
Jonah Williams, on the other hand, had a rough game. In his defense, he had a really tough matchup this week against Justin Houston. But, you still have to come ready to play and he was visibly worked throughout much of the game.
Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense
Defensive line grade: A+
If there was a criticism you could make for this unit, it’s allowing 88 yards rushing to the opposing quarterback. However, considering that opposing quarterback is Lamar Jackson, I’ll let it slide. Particularly because this unit regularly got in Jackson’s face for five sacks.
It’s the second time in Zac Taylor’s tenure the Bengals have compiled that many sacks. The last time was a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns. Both teams’ seasons were over at that point, so you could argue Sunday’s sack total was more impressive.
On top of that, the Bengals only allowed 2.25 yards per run to Ravens players not named Lamar Jackson. A lot of that had to do with incredible performances from the boys up front. The only member of the starting four defensive linemen who didn’t have a flashy play was DJ Reader. Even then, both of his tackles allowed less than two yards.
Linebacker grade: B
It was a quieter night from the Bengals’ linebacker corps. Tight ends Mark Andrews and Josh Oliver looked like they were ready to break out in the second quarter. But, the Bengals got back on top of them in the second half and ultimately didn’t allow either to find the endzone.
Logan Wilson once again led the team in total tackles (7). He did a lot of cleaning up Lamar Jackson breakaway runs. But, he also absolutely stoned Le’Veon Bell for a five yard loss on the Ravens’ first drive of the game.
That play set the tone for the Bengals’ defense the rest of the game. Just another day at the office for Wilson, who is starting to look like a star.
Cornerback grade: A-
The Cincinnati Bengals saw snaps from almost their entire cornerback roster this week from Chidobe Awuzie, to Eli Apple, to the newly acquired Tre Flowers. Outside of the one time Chidobe Awuzie got beat for a 39-yard touchdown by Marquise Brown, I don’t think any of them had a particularly bad play.
One of my favorite plays of the game came with 4:26 left in the third quarter. The Bengals’ defense was trying to hold on to a 10-point lead and Lamar Jackson found Marquise Brown for a quick play. Awuzie and Mike Hilton were right there at the perfect spot to stop the play short of a first down.
Hilton got faked out of his cleats. But, Awuzie stood firm and allowed only 3 yards, forcing a punt on the following play. It nearly led to a game-icing score on the following drive, except Burrow threw an interception in the end zone.
Safety grade: A
Jessie Bates’ claim as the best safety in the NFL is much quieter this year, but still very much alive. The splash plays are just not happening. But, to be fair, the defense as a whole isn’t really generating them. In fact, they don’t really need them to dominate opponents.
So, Bates gets to focus on being an elite cleanup crew in the passing game and a FORCE in the running game. Vonn Bell too. When opponents are making it to the third level, these two are simply not letting them get much else accomplished.
Special teams grades: A-
This may have been the most complete game Darrin Simmons’ unit has played all year. Evan McPherson easily converted both of his field goal attempts. One of them was a 52-yard attempt. Most NFL kickers are tested at that range, but McPherson didn’t blink and worked his way back to being known as ‘Money’.
Kevin Huber had a rough first attempt when the Cincinnati Bengals were forced to punt from the Ravens’ 39. It sounds like a really bad coaching decision, but the Bengals were unable to get anything accomplished each of the last three plays so it seemed unlikely they would magically pick up 10 yards on 4th and 10.
Unfortunately, Huber put a bit too much power into his kick and the ball fell harmlessly for an easy touchback.
With such a short field to work with, you’d hope he would have pinned the Ravens inside their own 5. Coverage on the following punt wasn’t great, giving the Ravens possession at their own 29 instead of their own eight. However, the Bengals didn’t punt again until their second-to-last drive of the game. This time, Huber knocked it out of bounds at the Ravens’ 16.
Darius Phillips had a good day as a returner. On his first punt return of the day, he set the Bengals up near midfield with a 13-yard punt return that looked close to going to the house.
Coaching grade: A
I think the biggest complaint against Zac Taylor this week was the lack of creativity on 3rd and short. Fairly regularly, the Bengals simply tried to run up the middle and got stuffed. It contributed to a first half performance that really felt like the Bengals missed a bunch of opportunities to not already be in full control of the contest.
Then, the second half started. Lamar Jackson shredded the Bengals on the first drive of the third quarter. But, those were the last points the Ravens would score the rest of the game. Offensively, it was another second half explosion. Zac Taylor is becoming known for his ability to make great adjustments at halftime, and that was on full display this week.
The vision is starting to materialize in Taylor’s third season. Everyone who was ready to fire him last year is starting to look real suspect.
Saturday evening I was able to attend one of the most historic rivalries in college football, USC and Notre Dame. Both teams have plenty of NFL Draft prospects to examine. Southern California has been down for the past several years, firing their head coach earlier this season exemplifies that.
Notre Dame has been on the other end of the spectrum for “blue blood” CFB programs. They’ve made it to two College Football Playoffs in the past three seasons. Although it looks like they will be out of this upcoming playoff, they still boast a (6-1) record, with their one loss coming at the hands of #2 Cincinnati.
Even with these two programs seemingly on different spectrums, this rivalry proves to always show a good game. So without further ado, here are my game notes for some of the top 2022 NFL Draft prospects from USC at Notre Dame.
Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC
Drake London was an absolute menace for USC against Notre Dame. London was used mainly as USC’s “X” receiver, but spent time in the slot as well. As USC’s alpha wide receiver, London accumulated 15 catches and 171 yards receiving. That’s good for 56% of USC’s receptions and 57% of USC’s passing yards, in this game!
London displayed incredible yards after the catch ability all night, highlighting his incredible “wiggle” for his size (listed at 6’5” — 210 lbs.).
Cam Hart, Cornerback, Notre Dame
Cam Hart has been someone on my radar since his incredible game against Wisconsin at Soldier Field about a month ago. He continued to show great technique and awareness all night last night. Hart completely locked down his side of the defense.
In his two reps against Drake London he recorded a pass breakup on one and was in his hip pocket the entire route on the other, forcing Slovis to throw the ball away on a roll-out. It is still too early to tell how high Hart can go in this upcoming draft, but he is a name draft fans should be aware of before testing in Indianapolis this spring.
Drake Jackson, Edge Rusher, USC
Drake Jackson was held in-check for most of the night against Notre Dame. Tommy Rees (Notre Dame’s Offensive Coordinator) chose to run away from Drake Jackson’s side of the field often. This is proving smart as Kyren Williams tallied 25 rushes for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.
However, Jackson still continued to show why he’s a first-round talent while recording a sack using incredible bend and speed. I would still love to see Jackson add a counter move to his game, a few times Notre Dame’s tackle’s would “catch” Jackson and let him run around the pocket while ushering him away from Jack Coan or Tyler Buchner.
Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame
This has absolutelynothing to do with what Kyle Hamilton did on the field, but has everything to do with him getting injured early in the second quarter of the game. Hopefully, it is not a season ending injury and he’s able to come back and prove to NFL scouts and teams that he’s 100% and ready to dominate the NFL.
The prognosis seems very encouraging here, I expect this will be the last time we see Kyle Hamilton on anyone’s “Stock Down” lists. Hamilton is a Top-5 talent in the draft when healthy.
Kedon Slovis, Quarterback, USC
Kedon Slovis had one of the best true-freshman seasons in recent memory, battling with Joe Burrow for the title of most accurate quarterback in college football. Slovis then had a rough sophomore season, which some attributed to a shoulder injury that was bothering him all season.
Now in his junior year, Slovis had to prove he’s a legitimate option for NFL teams as their franchise-altering quarterback. Slovis has failed to prove that this season and it continued Saturday evening.
Kedon Slovis has a few good playmakers at his disposal, including star receiver Drake London, but he continues to struggle to get the ball out on-time and in rhythm. This also could be a coaching knock, but USC’s offense against Notre Dame was basically all Drake London (as shown above by his receiving stats and percentages).
Slovis also had to deal with USC starting two freshman tackles, but if he wants to be a round one quarterback in the NFL draft, he needs to be able to play through that and make his team around him better.
Slovis has talent, he also has hustle. At the start of the second quarter Kedon Slovis had a batted pass that resulted in an interception. Notre Dame’s Bo Bauer had a free 88-yard pick-six, but Slovis busted his tail and tackled him just short.
Notre Dame’s Offense would fail to score. Slovis saved USC four points because of that tackle, that means something to me. Slovis may not be a round one quarterback, but I believe he has a spot in the NFL still.
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