Weekly Nickel 9-3-2012

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Adam Jones (pictured above) has been a main reason why the Baltimore Orioles are in contention for their first AL East title since 1997.

By Josh Kramer

Labor Day typically means two things other than a day off of work.  First of all, the dog days of August are over.  Secondly, America’s favorite sport is back.  College football took over this weekend and guess what?  The NFL is right around the corner.  Last week was a whole lot of fun, but this week will be good in its own right.  Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  Richmond International Speedway will be the place to be next Saturday in terms of NASCAR.  This is the final race before the Chase for the Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway on the 16th.  In other words, Richmond is for all of the marbles.  Find a way into the top ten, or pray that you nab one of the two wild card spots.  I am looking at you Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards.

4.  The dog days are finally over.  Players are smiling from ear to ear due to the dog days finally ending, the expanded rosters, and of course the home stretch to the regular season.  We have learned a few things along the way.  The Baltimore Orioles are the real deal.  Crazy, I know.  Much of this is thanks to their star center fielder Adam Jones.  Also, “Operation Strasburg Shutdown” is rapidly approaching (nine days away).  And maybe heavy spending doesn’t translate to postseason berths (just ask the Dodgers or the Red Sox).  My matchup of the week is set to go down in Baltimore.

New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles:  The Orioles currently trail the New York Yankees by just two games.  Let me repeat that.  The lowly Baltimore Orioles are in contention for the first time in what seems like an eternity (last playoff appearance was in 1997).  This past weekend, the O’s took two of three from the Bombers in the Bronx.  Come Thursday, the battle for AL East supremacy heads to Baltimore in the form of a four-game set.  In other words, its make or break time in terms of who is going to win the division.

It is no secret that the Yankees have been playing with a crippled roster.  Money can buy stars, but it can’t prevent injuries.  With A-Rod set to return early this week (possibly tonight), the Yankees couldn’t be happier.  When Rodriguez initially was injured after being struck by an errant King Felix (Felix Hernandez) change-up, the Yankees led the AL East by seven games and were 19 games over .500.  Heading into play today, the Bombers are still 19 games over.500, and just two games ahead in the AL East.  The timing is perfect.  Expect the “A-Rod Effect” to provide a jolt in the right direction as the Yankees take three of four and solidify their presence atop the division.

3.  The 2012 college football season finally got under way on Thursday.  Is anyone doubting that Geno Smith is a Heisman candidate?  Didn’t think so.  As is typically the case, Week 1 was littered with blowouts and mainly uneventful matchups.  There were some bright spots however.  Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, and Braxton Miller all provided some serious fireworks.  So did a guy named Sam Durley, who had a “eureka” moment for Eureka College.  There was also some poor play as well.  Michigan really stunk it up.  Pittsburgh went down to Youngstown State.  And Penn State, well, it is going to be an ugly next ten years for the football program.

Here are the matchups to keep an eye on this week (forewarning, there aren’t many):

-Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (River City Rivalry)

-Penn State at Virginia (At least they won’t loss at home this week to a MAC school)

-USC at Syracuse (USC will provide fireworks)

-Wisconsin at Oregon State (Big Ten vs Pac-12)

-Georgia at Missouri (Welcome to the SEC Missouri)

(All picks for the big games will be released in my weekly college football picks on Thursday)

2. The career of Andy Roddick continues on. Despite the fact that it is sad he is retiring, Roddick has lived a pretty awesome life.  He is retiring at 30-years-old, has won a Grand Slam title (2003 US Open), and is married to SI Swimsuit Cover Girl Brooklyn Decker.  Flushing has become the epicenter of the tennis world as the year’s fourth and final Grand Slam enters the second week.  Who will come home with the US Open title?  Expect some grueling marathon matches throughout the week as that question gets answered.

1.  The NFL kicks off on Wednesday night.  It has been far too long since the Giants shocked the Patriots back in February.  There are so many storylines and so much speculation as is always the case at the beginning of September.  I do know one thing though:  Sundays will be booked from now until February 3rd.  Who else is ready for some football?

Here are the marquee matchups for the week:

-Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (Could there really be a better matchup for opening night?)

-Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs (Two teams expected to make the playoffs by many)

-San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (The NFC favorites)

-Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (Rematch of last year’s playoff overtime thriller)

-Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (AFC North battle)

All of the picks for Week 1 will be included in the weekly “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge” on Friday)

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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