While NFL teams are battling their peers on paper, injuries continue to be the most threatening opponent as the preseason prepares to enter its third and most notable week.
Just about every team in the league has at least one marquee injury to keep coaches up at night, but the problem never made itself more prevalent than Saturday’s matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings. Six members of the Vikings team left the game on Saturday, some did so via the cart. Some of the injuries were quite serious and will result in longterm absences.
The same number of players were affected for the Dallas Cowboys. One injury stuck out more than most: right guard Zack Martin, who is perhaps the best player in the Dallas locker room and the best at his position in the entire league, exited the game in the second quarter after hurting his knee. It was announced Monday that Martin should be good for the opener, but it was a close scare for the Cowboy faithful as their offensive line is already thin for the time being.
On top of injuries, the preseason has shown heightened frustration from defenders around the NFL regarding the new helmet rules. Most notably, Richard Sherman, the outspoken cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, used the words ‘idiotic’ and ‘impossible’ when describing the new normal. As a fan, I cannot help but agree. We have seen countless personal fouls in the preseason that have been head scratchers and the calls will dictate the regular season if they are implemented the same way during games that matter.
In baseball, things are starting to heat up as we inch closer and closer to October. The Astros have appeared to be on their way to another AL West title throughout the majority of the season, but the Oakland Athletics have been one of the game’s hottest squads since late June (along with the Boston Red Sox) and found themselves tied for the top spot as of last week. As of Monday, Houston barely holds onto a one game lead with over a month left to go.
Oh, and the Seattle Mariners have not gone away either. The Astros hold just a four and a half game lead over the third place Mariners and now just have to worry about securing a spot in the postseason. This seems laughable considering the Astros roster, which is arguable more bolstered than that of last year’s championship team, but the American League is just that good. Out of the Yankees, Astros, A’s and Mariners, one has to miss the postseason, but each has as many if not more wins than any team in the National League.
For the most dominant team in the land, we look to Boston. What the Red Sox have accomplished so far in 2018 in nothing short of phenomenal. As of Monday, they sat nine and a half games above the second place Yankees with 88 wins and just 37 losses (To give the reader a reference point, the Baltimore Orioles had 37 losses by May 28).
My apologies to any Oriole fans out there, but they were on the wrong end of one of the more incredible stats I have seen in quite sometime: this week, Baltimore officially found themselves over 50 games out of first place in the AL East. Granted, this has just as much to do with Boston’s greatness as it does their lousiness. In fact, the Orioles are just about as bad as the Kansas City Royals in the Central, but there is something about seeing a team over 50 games back in the standings that jumps out at you.
In the National League, we seem to be getting more questions than answers at this point. The Chicago Cubs still hold the league’s best record at 71-52 as of Monday, but they now have to worry about the surging St. Louis Cardinals as well as the second place Milwaukee Brewers. Chicago leads Milwaukee by just three and a half games and leads St. Louis by four.
In the west, the Dodgers suddenly find themselves in third place and two games behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks (who led the Rockies by just half a game as of Monday). Los Angeles seemed to be underperforming thanks to injuries throughout much of the year, but they were expected to start pulling away once they got some of those guys back. However, the divisional drama is just getting started.
The same can be said about the NL East. It is officially time to hit the panic button if you are the Washington Nationals, who find themselves seven games out of first after a disappointing season so far. Washington was the choice of many to win the NL, but the Atlanta Braves remain on top of the east with a half game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.