The Warning Track: Why 2016 Would Be A Great Year To Start Watching Baseball

This column originally appeared in the Daily Lobo, the independent student newspaper at the University of New Mexico, and can be viewed here.

Major League Baseball is in somewhat of a transitional phase the likes of which neither the sport, nor its fans, have never really seen before. It’s not experiencing an existential crisis, per se, but the sport has devoted much attention and resources towards tailoring a very traditional game for a younger generation.

The modern sports fan tends to prefer the fast and furious of the NBA and NFL over the more easy-going nature of our national pastime. That’s not a bad thing, but the overused cliché that “baseball is boring/too slow/just not that exciting,” will just make the lifelong baseball fan roll their eyes.

It doesn’t have to be any of those things, though, and most people who say baseball fits any combination of those three might not have taken the time to actually sit through a game.
As it turns out, the 2016 season might be the perfect time to do just that – give the sport a try.

You don’t have to fight the urge of resisting the sport any more. And with pitchers and catchers from most major league ballclubs reporting for Spring Training duty on Friday, you’re only going to hear about it more and more as Opening Day (which has as much a right as the Monday after the Super Bowl to be a national holiday) gets ever close on April 4.

At the very least, the boys of summer will keep you occupied until the boys of fall hit the gridiron once more.

Here are just some of the big reasons why this upcoming 2016 season is a great one to start watching the sport.

Parity Parade
Baseball’s “final four” of the 2015 postseason field – the Cubs, Mets, Royals and Blue Jays – had a whopping zero World Series Championships, collectively, this century. Their respective droughts added up to 188 seasons, until the Royals ended theirs by beating the Mets.

That that relatively inexperienced group of organizations was in the running to win it all in late October is no fluke; for the past few years they and other teams have rebuilt themselves to challenge perennial contenders like the Yankees, Giants and Cardinals. It amounts to an incredible level of parity in the sport, one in which fans would be reluctant to say who is going to make it all the way.

It could be the mega-hyped young Cubs, trying to end one of the most infamous and mocked droughts in all of sports. It could be the Astros, who last year shook off the label of division cellar-dwellers to reach October and look poised to go a step further. It could also be the Mariners, who have vastly underachieved the last few years. It could even be the Giants, vying for their fourth championship in seven years.

The point is, save for a couple organizations in rebuild mode, the postseason field tough to predict, between the established contenders and the teams trying to make a name for themselves as underdogs. It will make for an exciting season, but even more importantly, an unexpected one.

Now Batting: The Kids

Just as baseball is achieving a level of parity rarely seen historically in the sport, so too is there an unprecedented amount of young talent that has taken the league by storm.

Players like Carlos Correa (21 years old), Kris Bryant (24) and reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper (23) have started to hog the spotlight, and for good reason. With veterans like Albert Pujols (36), Alex Rodriguez (40) and David Ortiz (40) all playing in the twilight of their careers, the torch has been figuratively handed off to the young guns who have a big role to play in ushering in a new era.

And don’t forget about Mike Trout (24), either. Arguably the face of major league baseball ever since Derek Jeter’s retirement in 2014, he’s finished in the top 2 in American League MVP voting in each of his four full seasons. Any perfectly competent baseball fan could agree he’s already an all-time great.

Byron Buxton, touted prospect for the Twins, will be the next young star to make waves in the major leagues this year.

Byron Buxton, touted prospect for the Twins, will be the next young star to make waves in the major leagues this year.

Relishing the DH Rules While We Still Can

MLB stands out from the other “big four” American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL) in that there is a stark difference between how American League and National League games strategize, due to the designated hitter rules in the AL.

Essentially, in the National League there must be a pitcher’s spot in the lineup, while the AL has a “designated hitter” to occupy that spot. The result is two leagues with distinct personalities – one with more offensive fireworks and one that prides itself on being essentially a chessmatch in terms of making decisions with pitchers.

It’s a fun dichotomy to experience, but it might not be around for much longer. Due to the recent increase in pitchers suffering long-term injuries at the plate, there is now, for the first time, very real consideration to employ the DH in both leagues.

Traditionalists of the game sigh at the thought of such a change, which could be implemented as early as 2017. For that reason, the person on the fence about baseball should take it upon themselves to experience the way the game has been played for virtually its entire history before the changes (may) take place.

Vin Scully’s Final Ride

Vin Scully, lone wolf broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1950, is as much a baseball icon as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson or Pete Rose.

From his ability to interweave personal anecdotes seamlessly into the game to staying insightful and reactive well into his 80s, to his catalogue of memorable calls at historic moments (see: Hank Aaron hits No. 715), Scully is a pure national treasure.

Which is why the baseball world shed a collective tear when he announced that his upcoming, unprecedented 67th season would be his final one. If there is just one reason to tune in to the sport for the first time in 2016, it’s to marvel and appreciate Scully’s magic behind the mic, and to experience his final year that marks the end of an era.

Thanks for reading!



The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a fairly consistent basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 


4th & Inches: Championship Sunday

4th & Inches is a weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to trending topics.

As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


Big Brother is watching

In the 45 minutes or so leading up to the NFC Championship, news was coming out of the NFL threatening to eject Marshawn Lynch – honestly, who else – from playing.

What? Say what? Oh my goodness, what did he do? Did he get in some bar fight last night that the league had learned about? Did he badmouth someone, refuse to talk to media, what Marshawn antics has Marshawn gotten into this time?

Well. None of the above. Lynch apparently was being told he would not be able to play if he went through with a particular wardrobe choice.

Gold cleats, huh? I can dig it, Marshawn. You do you, man. Too bad the NFL didn’t allow him to do so, for reasons that only god knows about.

In some respects this shouldn’t even be surprising. The league has had such a chokehold on how players should behave and say that dictating what they wear was bound to come up. Granted, this isn’t the first time that players have come under fire from the league for some fashion choices, but it is one of the most perplexing.

The thing about this story isn’t the weirdness factor. The thing about this story is that it isn’t weird at all, not with the dictatorship structure of the league. But this does raise it to a whole new level – one in which the league almost its own dystopian society, one where each player is pressured to act the exact same way, say the same things, wear the same colors on their cleats.

The fact of the matter is that players are expected to be mindless, choiceless drones at the service of the NFL, and to The Almighty Goodell. It transcends the standards of keeping a business running smoothly; it’s beginning to delve into a type of psychological control that is in place for the welfare of the league itself, many times at the expense of players’ free will. At least it seems that way.

Goodell is continuing to show that what he wants is what the NFL needs, with zero regard for the choices of his enslaved players. And thank goodness he does, because we can’t IMAGINE what kind of chaos gold cleats would have caused.


We’re onto you, Marshawn.


Cutler’s gotta be cut

All signs point to John Fox being the next head coach of the Chicago Bears after “mutually parting ways” with John Elway and the Broncos last week.

Fox coached Peyton Manning during what some would call the best couple seasons of his illustrious career. That seems to have been one of the primary factors in his hiring, as many believe Fox will be able to help “resurrect” Cutler’s career.

I say “resurrect” lightly because, in truth, Cutler is beyond saving, beyond redemption. Even with an abundance of weapons at his disposal – Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, etc etc – Cutler was an absolute joke in 2014, right up to his benching for backup Jimmy Clausen.

For Fox – who went 46-18 with a Super Bowl berth in his four seasons at Denver – to have any success with his next job, Chicago has to pull the plug on Cutler. Because for him to turn it around and take the Bears to the Super Bowl would be would one of the most remarkable transformations in NFL history.

Cutler has thrown for at least 12 interceptions in seven of the last eight seasons. The average season-long passer rating for Cutler is 85.2, right about average on the scale. He’s topped 25 touchdowns only three times in his nine-year career. He has a .512 career winning percentage.

None of these numbers are exactly anything for Fox to get excited about and, more importantly, they don’t show any growth in Cutler’s time as a quarterback. Sure he threw for the most touchdowns in any season of his career last season (28), but he also led the league in turnovers, a word that unfortunately became synonymous with his name.

Jay Cutler was the very definition of "ineffective" in 2014.

Jay Cutler was the very definition of “ineffective” in 2014.

The most important thing to pay attention to is Cutler’s playoff career. In short: he doesn’t have one. He is 1-1 in the playoffs, both games coming from a 2010 trip.

How does one garner expectations based on that number? If your quarterback can’t even play well enough during the regular season to even get to January football, how do you expect him to perform if he DOES get there?

You can’t. You’d have better luck turning the Raiders around.

Exceptions may be made if Cutler was still young and learning, but he’s a veteran, a veteran who has shown over the course of his career that he is as ineffective as he is confident in his play.

So if Chicago is going to start over, they might as well START OVER. Letting go of Cutler should be as the top of their to-do list. Yes, their defense was just as laughable in 2014, but how much can you expect them to really play when they know their efforts will more than likely be for naught when Cutler gets the ball again?

Fox’s impact in Chicago begins with Cutler’s departure. He’s gotta go.



A triumph of the 12th degree

Prior to Sunday’s NFC Championship, the Packers had no business winning to advance to the Big One.

With five minutes left in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, the tables had turned – to the tune of five turnovers – and suddenly it was the Seahawks who had not business coming out on top.

I mean, not after plays like this…

Or this.

I mean, check this out.

The game is SURELY over now.

But then this happened.


A GB special teams miscue, a Wilson touchdown scramble, a rumbling tumbling Marshawn Lynch earthquake run later (all in a span of a few minutes), it was apparent that this game wasn’t going to end the way it looked with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

A miracle descended upon CenturyLink Field, and Russell Wilson went from Least Valuable Player to Messiah for the 12th Man.

Fortune favors the bold, and I’ll be damned if Russell Wilson’s play in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime was not bold. Not since the 1960s has a quarterback overcome a four interceptions to win a title game. Wilson himself couldn’t have seen it coming.

It’s a rare quality, to be able to perform like No. 3 did when all hope was lost. To be able to keep it together, keep your emotions and sanity in check until after the game. To be able to perform your highest when so many of the NFL’s most devoted fanbase had already lost faith. But if there’s one thing Wilson has shown since he entered the league, it’s that he is quite the rare quarterback.

After Sunday’s victory, it is perfectly justified to call Wilson the clutchest of the clutch, the most composed of composed, the mentally toughest of the mentally tough. The Packers, by and large enormous underdogs in this game, had victory in their hands…for 55 minutes.

So, of course, it would be the Seahawks triumphant in the end, finishing the greatest comeback in NFL title game history, improving to 26-2 at home since the start of the 2012 season, becoming the first team since the 2004 Patriots to return to the Super Bowl.

Because Wilson is a rare breed. Because there is no such thing as “game over” with these Seahawks. Because games like this, and Wilson’s speech afterwards, are the reason we love sports.


Take 4

Everything that the NFC Championship was, the AFC title game was not.

Andrew Luck entered the matchup at New England winless in three tries against Tom Brady, but to say that Brady was the one who beat him in two of those three match ups would be inaccurate.

Over their last three meetings, including the playoffs, the Patriots have rushed for 673 (!!!) yards and 13 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) touchdowns.

Nothing about tonight’s game showed growth in the Colts with how they match up against the Patriots. From beginning to end it was pure deja vu for Indy fans. The Patriots have now outscored the Colts by 116 points over their last four meetings. This shouldn’t happen in football.

And this shouldn’t have happened on Sunday. Not with the resurrection of Indy’s run defense in these playoffs. The way they shut down the Bengals’ and Broncos’ running game established that this was should have been a more competitive matchup than the last three.

Instead, Luck dropped to 0-4 against Bill Belichick, and in epic fashion, having lost by 21 points in each game. Oh they made history, make no mistake about that.

This loss shouldn’t be put on Luck, at least not entirely. Almost every phase of the Colts game was completely overmatched by New England – their receivers couldn’t get open, Herron couldn’t get it going on the ground, their defense couldn’t stop LeGarrette Blount, and they beat themselves with dropped passes and turnovers.

It was a perfect storm of lack of preparation and lack of confidence that lasted 60 minutes and resuled in Tom Brady’s postseason legacy growing ever larger.


Chuck Pagano will receive credit for leading his team one round deeper into the playoffs for a third straight year, and rightly so. But to get to the next level in 2015, the one level that really matters, they need to work their butts off to get home field advantage next season. The citizens of Indianapolis are all too accustomed to seeing familiar foes in the playoffs.

As for New England, Tom Brady gets his third shot at a fourth Super Bowl ring when they head to Arizona in a few weeks. No matter what happens, Super Bowl XLIX has to be better than last year’s debacle….right?



David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.






4th & Inches: Wild Card Weekend

4th & Inches is a weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to trending topics.

As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


A legend is born, for all the wrong reasons

Ryan Lindley etched his name into NFL lore on Saturday afternoon.

No, he didn’t throw for 600 yards. He didn’t even throw for 100. He didn’t throw for six touchdowns. He threw for one. Oh he set a big record, no doubt about that, but one which will prevent any child born in Arizona this year to be named Ryan.

Lindley now has the distinction of being the quarterback – of about the 37th string variety – who led an offense to an NFL playoff history-worst 78 net yards.




That number ain’t fake.


For Pete’s sake.

Seventy-eight offensive yards. In the NFL. In 2015.

How on earth did this game finish with a score of 27-16? The same reason Arizona will win one dubious NFL distinction – Bruce Arians, head coach extraordinaire.

Arians continues to be masterful calling plays, creating schemes, and always keeping his team in it, no matter which quarterback gets injured on a given week.

Arizona’s defense, too, continued to play with the extraordinary amount of heart that they showed in the regular season when Carson Palmer went down, when Drew Stanton went down, when all hope was lost, when they had no business winning football games in the Golden Age of the Quarterback in the NFL.

Defense kept Arizona in the game. But they couldn’t overcome the tropes of modern pro football and win a game with a quarterback even Cardinals fans hadn’t heard of a month ago. Rather the opposite happened; with each drive Lindley led, Cardinals fans were most likely forced to take another drink and another drink so the miserable performance could become more bearable.

It’s nothing against the Cardinals, really. They gave their best effort against a Panthers team that won its last four games by a combined score of 111-43, led by a rejuvenated shutdown defense oftheir own and a humbled and dynamic Cam Newton. Carolina became the second team with a sub-.500 regular season record to win a playoff game (Seahawks over Saints in 2011), and they look like an under-the-radar NFC team ready to make some noise.

Maybe defense will win a championship this year. Maybe it’ll be Carolina’s, or the Legion of Boom once again. But it couldn’t even help Ryan Lindley on Saturday, or dissuade the bitter aftertaste of the worst offensive performance in NFL playoff history.



What’s an accurate Super Bowl prediction anyway?

The Ravens over the last five or six seasons have perpetually been one of those teams that linger outside the spotlight for the majority of the season…watching…waiting…doing seemingly the bare minimum to sneak into the playoffs, where they tend to then undergo metamorphosis into a team whose lives depend on reaching the Super Bowl.

At least, that’s what happened on Saturday, where they began another potential Super Bowl run by spelling doom for three parties in different ways: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots, and this writer, whose Super Bowl prediction was busted on the first day of the playoffs.

My completely educated and supported theory guess that Big Ben would face off against the Seahawks in (probably, maybe) his last good shot at another championship in February seemed fairly possible, at least in my head.

Then Flacco happened. Those pesky Baltimore Ravens, who have now won the most playoff road games in NFL history (10) are a whole other team when January rolls around, as we all tend to forget and as the Steelers found out. With star running back La’Veon Bell out, Roethlisberger would have to be relied on more than usual if they were to pull out a victory against their rivals.

Roethlisberger didn’t come through, Baltimore’s front seven did, and Tom Brady might be shaking in his shoes today as a result.

I had said that I thought the Steelers are the only team who could legitimately threaten New England on their own turf, but seeing how the Ravens played on Sunday, Brady will still have his hands full next weekend, perhaps even more so. In reality we shouldn’t be surprised, seeing as how both Pittsburgh and Baltimore reside in the AFC North, which is the boxing ring of National Football League divisions. They play an extremely similar style of physical football, a style that their rivalry is built upon, and ol’ Joe Flacco has proved he can play with the best of them in the playoffs.

Flacco vs. Brady or Baltimore’s gaudy, terrifying defensive line vs. Brady?

We’ve got a week to decide.


Andy Schmandy

What are we even supposed to make of Andy Dalton at this point in his career?

After a 26—10 Wild Card loss at Indianapolis, in which they scored a grand total of zero points in the second half, Dalton becomes only the second quarterback to lose his first four postseason starts. To put it mildly, his career is reaching the point of comedy. The correlation of how much he makes to his playoff success is a pain to look at.

He was coroneted the Bengals’ Messiah in 2011 but after three seasons Cinci has yet to win their first playoff game since 1990. He’s put up pretty numbers, sure – like joining Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck as the only quarterbacks to throw for over 3,000 yards in each of their first three seasons – but those numbers are virtually transparent when his playoff success, or lack thereof, is so dismal.

It’s tough to envision Dalton holding up the Lombardi Trophy at any point in his career, no matter how hard we try, and that speaks to the bigger picture of a growing disparity between quarterbacks in the NFL.

The gap between elite quarterbacks and slingers who lack “it”, that undefinable quality which makes them winners, is growing at an alarming rate. NFL quarterbacks either have the stuff to win a Super Bowl or they don’t, and it’s becoming pretty easy for even the fan who only watches football two weeks out of the year to categorize. As far as this year’s playoff slingers go, Dalton falls into the latter category, as do (for now) Cam Newton and Matt Stafford.

The other quarterbacks – including Luck, Tony Romo, Russel Wilson, and Tom Brady – have varying levels of “it”, but make no mistake that they have it, whether they proved it in the regular season or by winning The Big One previously. They also have varying levels of postseason success, but that doesn’t matter when the subject of a player having “it” is oftentimes so clear. “It” is not an ostensible quality. You either have it or you don’t.

Quarterback parity in the NFL isn’t extinct. It probably isn’t even endangered. However we’re at a point where several quarterbacks have shown a lack of the unteachable qualities that place them on lower tiers of NFL Quarterbackdom. There is less and less of a middle tier of quarterbacks who show promise and instill hope, but have no rings to show for it, and perhaps only Philip Rivers resides on it.


Meanwhile, in the sports netherworld…

“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”

-Stuart Scott, ESPN anchor, reporter, and sportscasting groundbreaker

Hope heaven has a nice desk for you, Mr. Scott. RIP.

Stuart Scott




David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


4th & Inches: Week 17

4th & Inches is a weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to trending topics.

As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


The Greatness of Vinatieri

He was so close. One more made field goal attempt for the Colts in their final game against Tennessee and Adam Vinatierie’s name would be at the top of ESPN’s agenda as only the fifth kicker in NFL history to have a perfect season. Alas, whether it be from a slight gust or the damp conditions or fate, one final 46-yarder, a distance Vinatieri has covered countless times, couldn’t make it between the goalposts.

But final misses be damned.

Vinatieri was one of the most underrated players in 2014, and that’s due in large part to the fact that he is a kicker. Let’s face it, they don’t get much love or attention unless they’re being let go.

On the morning of 2014’s finale against the Titans, Vinatieri was 28-for-28 on field goal attempts, Vinatieri was perfect on PATs, and Vinatieri turned 42. It’s hard to decide which of the stats– concerning football or his age – is more incredible.

Alas, Vinatieri’s season ends 30-for-31 after Sunday’s miss from 46 yards, but that in no way mars the remarkably consistent season Vinatieri has had. Regarded by many as the most clutch kicker in NFL history (See: Super Bowls XXXVI & XXXVIII), Vinatieri became the first player in NFL history to score 900 points for two different franchises. He’ll end his season with a trip to the Pro Bowl along with four other Colts, but that game (exhibition?) will in no way be the end of a Hall of Fame Career.

Vinatieri has said he wants to keep playing after 2014, and why not? Considering how his age has correlated with his performance in recent seasons, Vinatieri is one of the most durable athletes in professional sports today. The oldest player currently in Canton to ever take the football field, George Blanda, hung up the cleats just prior to his 49th birthday. Who knows, maybe Vinatieri has another record in him?

So thank you, Vinatieri, for continuing to be an underappreciated marvel on the field. Congratulations on all your Super Bowl-clinching kicks that will go down in history, your phenomenal 2014, and all your success in the future.



Close to the very top of the Things We Never Thought We’d Say At The Beginning Of The Season…

The Dallas Cowboys have the most momentum going into the playoffs. Tony Romo has to be one of the most confident quarterbacks going into the new year and if the names Dez and DeMarco don’t strike a balance of fear and admiration in your heart, you haven’t been watching them enough this season.

The ‘Boys have been an absolute menace on both sides of the ball in December as Romo finally moved past his late-season ghosts (14-21 in December and January prior to 2014). Just look at that sentence and imagine how many of its components would sound comic a year ago. Jerry Jones’ faith in Jason Garrett ( has finally paid off after a couple of underwhelming 8-8 seasons, and he finally gets to see what his talent-infused roster gets to do in January.

Over the last month Dallas has outscored their opponents 165-79 while setting new franchise records in the process. Sure three of those teams aren’t going to be in the playoffs, but when routs become commonplace and expected that’s got to give you some confidence for when you play the big dogs.

Naysayers will say that Tony is setting up Dallas for “The Greatest Romo of All Time”, but that doesn’t have much legitimacy to it when their running attack and defense has been just as formidable a force in December. Heck, they would almost be shoo-ins for the Super Bowl if they resided in the weaker AFC.

Dallas won their finale against the Redskins 44-17 and finished a magnificent 8-0 on the road in 2014. As I’m typing this, if current scored hold, Dallas would have a bye through the first week of the playoffs.

They’re gonna need it to figure out their play at home, where they went just 4-4 this year. When that is your team’s biggest concern heading into the playoffs, you know you’re in a pretty good place.

Tony Romo led the Cowboys to a 4-0 record in December.

Tony Romo led the Cowboys to a 4-0 record in December.


The Indianapolis Colts and divisional privilege

After a 17-10 victory over Houston in Week 15, Indianapolis clinched yet another AFC South title. Or, as a decade of singular dominance by Indy and unparalleled atrociousness by Jacksonville, Houston, and Tennessee has suggested it should be called, they won the Weakest Division In Football.

Divisional dominance can be deceiving.

The Colts have now won the South nine times in the division’s 13-year existence, and in 2014 they swept their division opponents. Which really isn’t that astonishing when you look at the combined record of those other three teams, which stands at 14-34 for at the end of 2014. Those teams in their current respective locations have won a grant total of zero Super Bowls, due slightly in part to the fact that they have zero appearances between the three of them.

I mean, let’s be honest, does it really strike fear when wehear the words Jacksonville Jaguars or Tennessee Titans? The Houston Texans are getting there slowly, and by golly would have won the Worst Division In Football had Indy lost one or two games down the stretch. But in reality when it’s the Houston Texans we’re talking about, it’s usually J.J. Watt.

When examining the division more closely, it might do to place a big fat asterisk next to all the statements about Colts dominance and superiority in the division over the 2000s. They have been one of the most consistent franchises over the last 10+ years in the regular season, but when looking at how they have fared in the postseason – save for one Super Bowl victory in 2006 – does it really correlate with their play in the regular season?

Luck went 8-0 against the AFC South this season, but how impressive is that really?

Luck went 8-0 against the AFC South this season, but how impressive is that really?

To be sure, the Colts are remarkable for emerging the best team of four at the end of 9 out of 13 seasons. That is no small feat, no matter how bad the other teams perform. But when you compare the AFC South to a division like the NFC North, which has five Super Bowl victories between just two teams (the Packers and Bears) and has emerged as a deadly division in recent years, how much of a light is shed on the awkward lopsidedness of the AFC South?

It warrants thinking about, as the Colts win division title after division title while the rest of the division is seemingly stuck in eternal disappointment limbo.


Game 256

A playoff-picture-cementing matchup between the Steelers and Bengals earned the dubious distinction of being the final game of the 2014 regular season. The matchup is rightfully in primetime, and we all know what that means in 2014. 

On paper the Steelers should win this game, by about a score of  68-13, but the Bengals have been one of the more perplexing teams of the season. They’ve had a tendency to grind out must-win games against formidable opponents while doing the opposite against more meager teams, and that formula is in place for Game 256.

No matter the outcome of this game, the thing to pay attention to is the stars that have to align for a Steelers trip to Foxborough in the playoffs.

Just image the storylines surrounding that matchup. Two quarterbacks with what might very well be their last real shot at another Super Bowl to cement surefire Hall of Fame careers. Roethlisberger’s Steelers have emerged as the most balanced offensive attack in the league, while Tom Brady has had an MVP-worthy season.

Brady and Roethlisberger are a combined 28-12 in the playoffs.

Brady and Roethlisberger are a combined 28-12 in the playoffs.

With respect to the Broncos, their Super Bowl hopes rest on an early exit of the Patriots from the playoffs. As inconsistently as they have played in the latter half of the regular season, they aren’t the one team from the AFC that can beat Brady on his home turf.

The Steelers can, and I believe that a Brady-Roethlisberger matchup, headlined by two slingers with five Super Bowl rings between them, would result in a game for the ages.

I mean, something has to be there to halt the unstoppable force that is the Patriots in a season where the Giants miss the playoffs…right?

I think the Steelers are the one team that can do it and the team that will do it.

It begins tonight with Game 256, and the end of the regular season.


Just another MVP ballot

Last week I gave my take over why J.J. Watt won’t win the MVP – although he is truly deserving – and although finished his season by becoming the first player in NFL history with multiple 20-sack seasons, I stand by that.

That being said, the man had a damn fine season by any position’s standards, so he deserves some place on every ballot, which I present to you now, at the end of a season in which any of the listed players, and a few others, could win the award.

1. Aaron Rodgers,  QB, Green Bay

2. Tom Brady, QB, New England

3. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas

4. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston

5. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh

And, because they impact their respective teams just as much, I present to you my ballot for Least Valuable Player.

1. Roger Goodell, Commissioner, National Football League

2. Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets

3. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago

4. Jim Harbaugh, Soon-To-Be-Ex Head Coach, San Francisco

5. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta


Final thoughts on the 2014 regular season

  • How miserable a season it must have been for fans of the 49ers. Not only between having to deal with the wildly irrational play at times of Colin Kaepernick, but also with the never-ending speculation of where Jim Harbaugh will be coaching next year. This team is close to contending again, but that final piece might prove elusive.


  • As Peyton Manning sets new records in Denver, Andrew Luck surpasses him with smaller ones in Indianapolis. With an absolutely phenomenal 80-yard catch and run by Reggie Wayne on Sunday’s victory over the Titans, Andrew Luck set a new Colts franchise record for passing yards in a single season. Congratulations, Andrew. Now please get the turnover issue fixed for January.


  • Odell Beckham, Jr. That is all. Might be the sole reason Eli is still the starter in New York next season.


  • Roger Goodell has continued to dig himself a deeper hole, despite staying out of headlines the last few weeks, with how he handled the Rice case. Hard to imagine he’s Commish for much longer.


  • Major KUDOS to the NFL’s 32 teams for refusing to pick up Ray Rice.


  • My, what a three-year span it’s been for AP.


  • The Curious Case of Primetime Games…seriously, nothing about the 2014 season was more perplexing.


  • Denver just had an interception to end (finally) a 47-14 thrashing of the Raiders. If they return to the Super Bowl, it will be because of their defense.


  • Considering their situation(s), the Rams had to have had one of the most pleasantly surprising teams of 2014. Bradford is a healthy season away from leading them to the playoffs.


  • Johnny Manziel, you let us down.


  • Overreaction of the season: The Patriots are done for the season after a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs in Week 4.


  • Can’t remember the last time the choice MVP of the regular season was this muddled, and that can’t be anything other than good for the league. Parity is paramount.


  • Glad that Peyton isn’t seriously considering retirement just yet. The NFL isn’t quite ready for him to leave.




David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

4th & Inches: Week 16

4th & Inches is a new weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to Gronk’s latest photoshoot with cats.


As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


This is rock bottom in the Bay Area

Everything was looking great for the 49ers. Up 28-7 at halftime on a team who may have been playing too desperately to play smart football in the Chargers. Kaep looked great. The offense as a whole looked great. The defense looked great. And for one half, the football world was reminded of why Harbaugh’s 49ers have been such a threat since he entered the league.

But then the second half began, and it would take two more quarters and OT for the 2014 49ers to pull the most 2014 49ers move of all – allowing the Chargers to storm back and win the game 38-35.

The 49ers aren’t just losing games now – they’re setting up their fans for heartbreak by essentially playing to be left out of the playoffs. In the process, they gave Philip Rivers – arguably the best active quarterback yet to win a Super Bowl – another shot as the Chargers took a huge step towards playing in January.

The 49ers have a minor case of the Chicago Bears. They simply have too much talent on both sides of the ball to be playing like they don’t give a damn. And who knows, with all the speculation about where Harbaugh will be coaching next year, maybe they don’t.

The J.J. Watt-For-MVP Conundrum

Deep down, you love J.J. Watt. If you like the sport of American football at all, you love the man.

Don’t deny it. You know it’s true.

Hell, I love J.J. Watt. And my Colts have to play him twice a year.

Here’s the thing about Watt and his electrifying, legitimate, rock-and-roll play as it concerns his MVP case.

It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. He can be scoring touchdowns in every way imaginable – and he has – but unfortunately that will never be enough unless he’s consistently throwing touchdown passes for Houston too. It’s not his fault. He’s a great player. But the way the sport is viewed and played and analyzed, Watt will not win MVP this season. Even though he deserves it.

There’s a precedent to this whole does-a-defensive-player-do-enough-to-be-MVP debate. Te’o – Manziel, the two consummate Heisman Trophy finalists in 2012. Do you like old-school football, where the game is dictated by rumble tumble, merciless, you-shall-not-pass defenses? You rooted for Te’o, his whole catfishing situation be damned. Do you prefer electrifying quarterback play, where you don’t know if a play will end in a 20 yard gain or an 80 yard touchdown run or a Hail Mary to win the game with 5 seconds left? Then you probably rooted for Manziel, off-field antics be damned.

Unfortunately it didn’t matter what the public thought. It was most likely not a difficult decision for Heisman voters. In the end, as in any sport at any level, it comes down to who scores the points. Points win games. Case closed.

In the NBA, the MVP is almost always the player with the highest points per game who took his team deep into the playoffs (Lebron, Durant). In the NFL of yesteryear it’s the player who sets offensive records by scoring, scoring, and scoring some more (Hi, No. 18).

In the MLB…ahh. It is an interesting case in major league baseball. In 2011, a starting pitcher won the MVP as well as the Cy Young. It happened again this season when the almighty deity that is Clayton Kershaw won the National League MVP.

How could that be? They don’t score runs, they do quite the opposite in preventing the other team from making it to home plate. And they play only every fifth day for crying out loud! Watt plays and makes an impact in every game, so what gives?

The difference is the amount of control Watt has in the game. Yes, he’s the heart of the Texans defense. Yes, he’s caught a few touchdown passes on offense. Yes, he impacts the game simply by lining up on the field and striking fear in the opposing quarterback. But this is football. And in the modern age of football, the player who has the control is the quarterback. In the end, it will always be the quarterback. Blame the quarterback. Praise the quarterback.

Going back to Kershaw: yes he only plays every fifth game, but when starting pitchers are on the mound, they control the game. It is in their hands. And as a result with Kershaw, mostly because of his filthy stuff, one or no runs will be scored when he’s on the mound. Because he controls the game.

Unless Watt is quarterback – which, let’s face it, it couldn’t hurt to try it – he won’t win MVP. He might not even be seriously considered. He deserves it, yes….but he won’t win it. Such is the nature of football.


Welcome to the NFC South, where the dreams of contenders go to die

There is a problem with the NFL playoff seeding, and seeding in sports in general.

Some years it works out where the problem isn’t evident. Other years, it is painfully obvious. It’s one of those years for the NFL.

The NFC South is a seething cesspool of underachievement, disappointment, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton, Brees, and Matt Ryan apparently all decided to have fluke seasons in 2014. “Nah guys, I don’t feel like playing in January. Let’s make it interesting for the league.”

And they have. Oh they have. The Panthers at 6-8-1, SIX EIGHT AND ONE, will face off against the 6-9 Falcons, SIX AND NINE, for not just the division…but also the opportunity to host a playoff game. The intrigue! The drama! The Battle of the Undesirables and Undeserving!

Meanwhile, over in the NFC East, the Eagles are 9-6 and will all but certainly stay home in January. What has the world come to?

The divisional structure of sports is The Way. It is the lifeblood. As hard as it is to believe, things would be even worse without the infrastructure of divisions and wild cards in the NFL.

The fact of the matter is that a team’s first goal has to be to winning as many games as possible to have a shot at the division. Sometimes that means having to win 12 games. Sometime that means getting off easy and finishing the season below .500. It isn’t right but it is The Way. Teams are expected to win as many games as they can, and in a perfect world the deserving teams will get a shot at The Big One by season’s end.

But if 2014 has showed us anything, the NFL is not a perfect world, and that holds true for seeding. The fact that the Eagles might miss the playoffs because of The System while the Panthers host a playoff game is unsettling. It’s fingers on a chalkboard bad. The Eagles have looked vulnerable at times, but they are arguably a much more deserving squad.

Sure things can be done to fix it. Sure. Sure, we can abolish divisions. Sure, we can give the six playoff tickets in each conference to the winningest records regardless of divisions and division winners. Sure.

But that is not The System.

The System is flawed, that isn’t more evident than this year. But teams like the 2014 Eagles will be sacrificed for the sake of the many. And the many in this case is any normal season for the NFL (an oxymoron, yes, but we’ll stick with it), in which The System succeeds despite its cloak-and-dagger reliance on some team, or two, in each division winning at least half of their games

There is a problem with NFL playoff seeding. The problem is that there is no problem. And we just have to live with that, as excruciatingly painful a fact as it is some years.


The Jets?

The Patriots are in a playoff state of mind, let’s make that clear. Their heads are already in January and their practices are probably that way as well. They know nothing truly rode on their game against the hapless Jets.

That being said, the Jets almost beat the Patriots. The Jets almost beat the Patriots. The Jets almost beat the Patriots, guys. They were doing so at halftime. The Jets were beating the Patriots.

Funny world, ain’t it?

There are upsets, and there are UPsets. Had the Jets pulled it off this would have been an upset of Olympian proportions, however obsolete a victory it may seem to New Englanders. It might have even been enough to keep Rex Ryan in New Yawk.

But the fact that they kept Brady scoreless for an entire quarter, the fact that they had a halftime lead – the JETS!!! – the fact that it was just a one-point game by the time 60 minutes were up…well you gotta feel pretty good for the Jets, dontcha?

Silver linings, New York. Enjoy the rest of your miserable season.


Super Bowl matchup prediction*

I’ve said Tom Brady isn’t going to another Super Bowl, and I stand by that educated assumption. That being said….

Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback. The Packers are a pretty good team. They’ll get this road inferiority stuff sorted out. And they’ll face off against a Broncos team looking to forget everything about February 2nd, 2014. Katy Perry will have a good night, too.

*subject to change


Meanwhile…in the sports netherworld….

In this final section of 4th & Inches I give my thoughts on other happenings in the wide world of sports. It’ll seem extremely non-sequitur, and that’s because of one reason: It is.


  • Kentucky is going to make things extremely uninteresting for one of the most interesting sporting events of the year in March. Have mercy, Calipari.
  • The Padres, who haven’t been relevant this century, are going all in for 2015. I don’t think it’ll end well. Primarily because I don’t think their marriage to Kemp will end will.
  • Unranked college basketball teams can have great games, too. NMSU-UNM last night came down to the wire after looking like it was done with ten minutes left. Impressive comeback by the Aggies. Better closeout by the Lobos. Great game, everyone wins.
  • There is officially no wider discrepancy in sports than the rift that just keeps getting wider and wider between the Western and Eastern Conferences in the NBA. Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks solidified that growing divide. Even Lebron can’t save it. The West is Peyton Manning to the Geno Smith that is the East.
  • Rondo to Dallas solidifies the Mavs as contenders for a deep, deep playoff run. Ridiculously early NBA Finals prediction: Mavericks – Bulls.
  • I think IU should be ranked.
  • Every day that passes without Ray Rice getting picked up, my faith in the NFL increases slightly.
  • 105 days until Opening Day 2015, guys. Hang in there.
  • As I finish revising this, Dallas scores their fifth touchdown of the day against Indianapolis. The Colts continue to be left on the plane when they are scheduled to play elite teams. Not good. For them or my fantasy team.


David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.