10.14.19: Five things for the week ahead, all based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1What we know, and what we’re not sure we know, heading into NFL Week 7:
= The 3-3 Rams’ three-game losing skid – the first under head coach Sean McVay — smells bad, doesn’t it? So they head out for a month — first to Atlanta (Sunday, at 10 a.m., Channel 11), then keep on going to London (to meet the Bengals) then return and catch Pittsburgh heading west.
= The 2-4 Chargers have two roadies, starting in Tennessee (Sunday at 1:05 p.m., Channel 2), then to Chicago, before coming back to face Green Bay before what will end up as a packed house of Packers fans (see: Sunday night vs. Steelers).
= The Pope is officially pulling for the New Orleans Saints. Which makes sense. Really, it does.

Finishing up Week 6:
= Detroit at Green Bay, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Going into Week 7:
= Kansas City at Denver, 5:20 p.m., Channel 11, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
= In the Fox 10 a.m. window (blacked out in L.A.): Minnesota at Detroit, Arizona at N.Y. Giants, San Francisco at Washington.
= In the CBS 10 a.m. window: Miami at Buffalo, Jacksonville at Cincinnati, Oakland at Green Bay, Houston at Indianapolis.
= In the Fox 1:25 p.m. window: New Orleans at Chicago, Baltimore at Seattle
= Philadelphia at Dallas, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4
Bye week: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Carolina


NUMBER 2What we will fully admit to not knowing about the 2019 MLS playoffs:
= 24 teams started, and 14 remain for this next phase, even though your LAFC has already won the Supporters Shield for best overall record:
= If the Galaxy, which lost its last two games of the regular season to non-playoff teams and thus couldn’t nab a home game, somehow can come out of Round 1 with a road win at No. 4 Minnesota (At Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN), then it advances to the Western Conference semifinals against – wait for it – No. 1 seed LAFC at the Banc of California Stadium on Oct. 24. That’s also a single elimination.
Without an injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy has defeated the Loons, 3-2, back on March 16, in Carson, but then played to a scoreless tie in Minnesota on April 24 in a midweek contest.
= The conference finals are also single elimination. The West is decided on Oct. 29, and the East on Oct. 30.
= Which ever team is left as the highest seed – NYCFC has the No. 1 spot in the East – will host the MLS Cup on Nov. 10.
= Also this week in the Round 1 games:
No. 6 Portland at No. 3 Salt Lake, Saturday at 7 p.m., ESPNEWS
No. 7 Dallas as No. 2 Seattle, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports
No. 5 D.C. United at No. 4 Toronto, Saturday at 3 p.m., Telemundo (winner advances to play at NYCFC on Oct. 23)
No. 7 New England at No. 2 Atlanta, Saturday at 10 a.m., Univision/Telemundo
No. 6 N.Y. Red Bulls at No. 3 Philadelphia, Sunday at noon, FS1
The bracket: www.mlssoccer.com

*************** Continue reading “10.14.19: Five things for the week ahead, all based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance”

10.07.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1What we know, and what we think we know, a week into the Major League Baseball playoffs:
= All four division series could end Monday.
= As long as the Washington Nationals have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg as viable arms to throw considerable innings over Games 4 and possibly Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, they have a chance to erase a 2-1 deficit. Who you got Monday in a Scherzer-vs.-Rich Hill scenario? There you go …
Game 4 goes Monday at 3:40 p.m. on TBS, with Game 5 back at Dodger Stadium, if necessary, on Wednesday at 5:37 p.m.

= Atlanta’s comeback in Game 3 at St. Louis shows the Braves’ resilience. They haven’t even named a starter yet in their Game 4 matchup today against the Cardinals (noon, TBS).
A Dodgers-Braves NLCS would start Friday and Saturday at Dodgers Stadium (as would a Dodgers-Cardinals series, should that matchup occur. Or else, it’s Washington at Atlanta or St. Louis).
= After Houston used Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole go throw 14 2/3 innings, 23 strikeouts and no earned runs in Games 1 and 2 wins over Tampa Bay, the Astros dig deep to send out Zach Greinke out to possibly ends its ALDS on Monday, who has former Astros starter Charlie Morton on the mound (11 a.m., FS1). Greinke’s thoughts? He had a 67-word press conference that explains it all.
= The Yankees’ 2-0 lead over 101-win Minnesota is predictable. Their ALDS Game 3 bats cleanup in the four-game order Monday (5:40 p.m., FS1).
The ALCS then starts Saturday on FS1, TBA.


NUMBER 2What we know, and what we think we know, about NFL Week 6:
The 2-3 Chargers’ ready-for-prime-time event comes in an NBC twilight visit to Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park against Pittsburgh (Sunday, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4). It could have been flexed out by the network. But let’s save those cards until the end of the season. If not for that charity trip to Miami two weeks ago, the Chargers could be looking much worse in the AFC West.
Meanwhile, the 3-2 Rams, having played a Thursday after a Sunday and losing both, meet up with a San Francisco 49ers team that has a Monday night game leading into a Sunday 1 p.m. meeting at the Coliseum (Channel 11).
Finishing up Week 5:
= Cleveland at San Francisco, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Going into Week 6:
= N.Y. Giants at New England, 5:20 p.m., Channel 11, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
Carolina vs. Tampa Bay at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, 6:30 a.m., NFL Network
In the Fox 10 a.m. window: Seattle at Cleveland, Washington at Miami, Philadelphia at Minnesota
In the CBS 10 a.m. window: Houston at Kansas City, New Orleans at Jacksonville, Cincinnati at Baltimore
In the Fox afternoon window (1:05 p.m., blacked out in LA): Atlanta at Arizona
In the CBS afternoon window (1:25 p.m.): Dallas at N.Y. Jets, Tennessee at Denver
Bye weeks: Chicago, Buffalo, Oakland, Indianapolis


NUMBER 3What we know, and what we think we know, about college football Week 7:
USC’s every-other-year trip to Notre Dame (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Channel 4) sets up as an unranked 3-2 Trojan team up against a No. 9 Irish squad sitting on 5-1 after a 52-0 home win against Bowling Green, the team’s 14th win in a row at home.
This is the 91st meeting, and USC has won 11 ofthe last 17 — but all six losses have been since 2010. The Trojans have won six of the last 11 in South Bend — but they’ve dropped the last three.
Notre Dame leads the series, 48-36-5, and a 26-13-1 mark in South Bend.
Also this week:
Pac-12 games:
Colorado at Oregon, Friday at 7 p.m., FS1
Washington at Arizona, Saturday at 8 p.m., ESPN
Utah at Oregon State, Saturday at 5 p.m. Pac-12 Network
Washington State at Arizona State, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Bye week: UCLA, Cal, Stanford
Penn State at Iowa, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7
Florida at LSU, 5 p.m., ESPN
Florida State at Clemson, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
South Carolina at Georgia, 9 a.m., ESPN
Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Michigan at Illinois, 9 a.m., Channel 7
Alabama at Texas A&M, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
Michigan State at Wisconsin, 12:30 p.m.
Hawaii at Boise State, 7:15 p.m., ESPN2
Wyoming at San Diego State, 7:30 p.m., CBSSN


NUMBER 4What we know, and what we think we know, a week into the NHL season:
After starting with three in a row on the road in Canada, including the bizarre 6-5 loss in Edmonton, the Kings come back for five home games in a stretch of eight days.
How this week shapes up for the Kings:
At Calgary, Tuesday at 6 p.m., Fox Sports West
At Vancouver, Wednesday at 7 p.m., NBCSN
Vs. Nashville at Staples Center, Saturday at 3 p.m., Fox Sports West
Vs. Vegas at Staples Center, Sunday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
How this week shapes up for the Ducks:
At Detroit, Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
At Pittsburgh, Thursday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket
At Columbus, Friday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket


NUMBER 5What we know, and what we think we know, about this Lakers trip to China:
The 13th edition of the NBA China Games already has some unwanted, and unwarranted, publicity. It won’t end here, will it?
= Lakers vs. Brooklyn in Shanghai, Thursday at 4:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= Lakers vs. Brooklyn in Shenzhen, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Spectrum Sports Net
The Clippers this week:
= vs. Denver at Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
= vs. Melbourne United at Staples Center, Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (no TV)


= WNBA Finals Game 4: Washington at Connecticut, Tuesday at 5 p.m., ESPN (Washington leads series 2-1).



09.30.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1The Dodgers’ franchise-record 106 wins – a result of a 6-0 run during the final week of the regular season and a 12-4 clip since clinching the NL West on Sept. 10 – goes down as the best in the National League, and second-best in the MLB to Houston’s 107 wins. So if the Dodgers and Astros reprise their 2017 World Series, this time a Game 7 would be in Houston. Because last time the Dodgers had a Game 7 against the Astros …
Let’s not catapult ourselves too far too soon.
The Dodgers start the NL Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Thursday and Friday, against the winner of the Milwaukee-Washington wild-card game (Tuesday, 5 p.m., TBS), with Game 3 on the road Sunday.
Major League Baseball announced that if Washington wins Tuesday’s wildcard, the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS starts at 5:37 p.m. If Milwaukee wins, the Dodgers-Brewers NLDS starts at 6:37 p.m. The Friday Game 2 would be at 6:37 p.m. (Dodgers-Nationals) or 6:47 p.m. (Dodgers-Brewers).
According to the latest numbers from FiveThirtyEight.com, the Astros are 27 percent favorite to win it all. Their starting pitching will go a long way toward proving that. But the Dodgers are at 24 percent.
FanGraphs.com has the Astros at 32 percent, with the Yankees second at 16 percent and then the Dodgers at 15 percent.
VegasInsider.com has the Dodgers as 1/2 to win the NLCS, the Astros 5/6 to take the ALCS, and then Houston the 9/4 favorite (over the 5/2 Dodgers) to win the title again.
So, we now play it out.
The rest of the post-season MLB schedule to date:
= AL wildcard: Tampa Bay at Oakland, 5 p.m., ESPN
= NLDS: St. Louis at Atlanta, Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta, Thursday and Friday (either 2:02 p.m. or 3:02 p.m. starts), TBS; Game 3 in St. Louis, Sunday, TBS.
= ALDS: AL wildcard winner at Houston, Games 1 and 2 in Houston, Friday (11:05 a.m., FS1) and Saturday (6:07 p.m. FS1); Minnesota at N.Y. Yankees, Games 1 and 2 in New York, Friday (4:07 p.m., MLB Network) and Saturday (6:07 p.m. FS1) Continue reading “09.30.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance”

09.23.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1Summer officially ended Sunday. Autumn officially arrived Monday. Falling forward, we admit we don’t always do well with change.
But the more things seem to change in the NFL finishing off Week 3, the more they stay the same.
The Rams’ Sunday night win at Cleveland keeps them uncomfortably undefeated in the NFC West, likely in the Top 5 of any media-induced power rankings at this point, and about a 10-point favorite against visiting Tampa Bay (Sunday at the Coliseum, 1:05 p.m., Channel 11).
Speaking of odds.
The 1-2 Chargers have to go 3,000 miles from home (Los Angeles, right?) and still have been slotted as a 17-point favorite at winless Miami (Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 2). To put that in perspective, this is just the fifth time since 1980 a road team has been favored by 17 or more points, and two of those instances have happened with this year’s Dolphins (including in Week 2 when New England closed as an 18-point road favorite and posted a 43-0 win).
The Dolphins have been outscored 133-16 in three losses (after going 3-1 in the exhibition season) and are guaranteed of not suffering another loss in Week 5 – they have a bye.
The Chargers have only scored three points in the second half of the last two losses combined, even though quarterback Philip Rivers ranks third in the NFL in passing yards to this point (944) and his 98.3 QB rating is 11th in the league a somewhat large leap over the Rams’ Jared Goff (25th at 84.5). Miami’s two quarterbacks, Josh Rosen (45.3) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (44.0) are second-to-last and last in the league’s QB ratings list.
Also this week, finishing NFL Week 3:
= Chicago at Washington, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
The rest of the Week 4 schedule:
= Philadelphia at Green Bay, 5:20 p.m., Channel 11/NFL Network
= Dallas at New Orleans, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4
CBS early window (10 a.m., blacked out in L.A.)
= Tennessee at Atlanta, New England at Buffalo, Oakland at Indianapolis, Cleveland at Baltimore.
Fox early window (10 a.m.)
= Kansas City at Detroit, Washington at N.Y. Giants
CBS late window (1:25 p.m.)
= Minnesota at Chicago, Jacksonville at Denver
Fox late window (1:05 p.m., blacked out in L.A.)
= Seattle at Arizona


NUMBER 2The Athletic’s John Walters writes in the aftermath of UCLA’s 67-63 win at Washington State late Saturday night: “It may have been the zaniest Pac-12 After Dark game for which we’ve ever sacrificed slumber, and that’s a ridiculously high bar to clear. What constitutes a Pac-12 After Dark game? First and second, as the title implies, the game must take place exclusively between Pac-12 schools and it must be played almost entirely after sundown. Third, it must have a loose adherence to football fundamentals such as tackling and ball security. Fourth, there must be an element of tragedy brought about by what Aristotle referred to as “peripeteia,” a dramatic reversal of fortune. Often more than one. … Finally, it helps if the losing school/coach was at least partly the author of its own demise. Extra points if they were previously undefeated.”
That Bruins victory checked off a lot of boxes, and they stay in the “dark” period of the schedule with a trip to Arizona.
USC’s win over previously 10th-ranked Utah also checked the Trojans into the newest AP Top 25 rankings. But we are a little confused. If USC defeated Utah, which defeated BYU, which defeated USC, which plays a Washington team this week that just demolished BYU, what do we really know at this point going into Week 5?
Of local interest:
USC at Washington, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 11
UCLA at Arizona, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Also this week in the Pac 12:
Stanford at Oregon State, Saturday at 4 p.m., Pac 12 Network
Arizona State at Cal, Friday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Washington State at Utah, Saturday at 7 p.m., FS1
Bye week: Oregon, Colorado
Also this week:
Penn State at Maryland, 5 p.m., FS1
Texas Tech at Oklahoma, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Northwestern at Wisconsin, 9 a.m., Channel 7
Clemson at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
Mississippi at Alabama, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
Virginia at Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m., Channel 4
Ohio State at Nebraska, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7



NUMBER 3The Dodgers have procured 100 wins. The Angels don’t have it in them any longer to chase 100 losses.
This last week of the regular season for the Dodgers is more about who comes out with the NL wild card – the Cubs’ six-game losing streak gives plenty of breathing room for Washington and Milwaukee to toggle for home field in a one-and-done matchup, with the winner coming to L.A. to start the best-of-five NLDS. The Dodgers finish the regular season in San Francisco with retiring manager Bruce Bochy and the likelihood of Madison Bumgarner making the start against the recuperating Rich Hill.
Among the milestones left this week for the team:
= Cody Bellinger is three homers away from tying the team’s single-season home run record (49 by Shawn Green in 2001)
= Justin Turner is three homers away from joining Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson in the 30 home-run group.
= Rookie catcher Will Smith is just 4 for 41 (.098) in September, after hitting .270 in August and .462 in July. He’s a couple hits away from getting above .100.
How the week plays out for the Dodgers (100-56, still at No. 2 in the ESPN MLB Power Rankings behind Houston)
= At San Diego: Tuesday at 7:10 p.m., Wednesday at 7:10 p.m., Thursday at 12:40 p.m.
= At San Francisco: Friday at 7:15 p.m.; Saturday at 1:05 p.m.; Sunday at noon. All on SportsNet LA
How the final week plays out for the Angels (70-86):
= Vs. Oakland, Angel Stadium: Tuesday at 7:07 p.m.; Wednesday at 7:07 p.m.
= Vs. Houston, Angel Stadium: Thursday at 7:07 p.m.; Friday at 7:07 p.m.; Saturday at 6:07 p.m.; Sunday at noon. All on Fox Sports West.
Key games of note:
= Cleveland at Chicago White Sox, Tuesday at 5 p.m., ESPN
= N.Y. Yankees at Tampa Bay, Wednesday at 4 p.m., ESPN
= Chicago Cubs at St. Louis, Saturday at 4:15 p.m., Channel 11


NUMBER 4Three MLS games remain for LAFC (19-4-8, first in the West with 65 points, 15 better than runner-up Seattle) and the Galaxy (15-13-3, fourth in the West with 48 points), but two will be taken care of this week:
= LAFC vs. Houston, Banc of California Stadium, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., YouTube TV
= LAFC at Minnesota, Sunday at 4:30 p.m., YouTube TV
= Galaxy at Real Salt Lake, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= Galaxy vs. Vancouver, Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Sunday at 4:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet


NUMBER 5NHL exhibition season continues with opening night just a week away leaving the Kings and Ducks to share a home-and-home visit along the way. Monday, it’s Staples Center (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports West) and Wednesday it’s Honda Center (7 p.m., Prime Ticket). Also:
= Kings at Vegas, Friday at 7 p.m.
= Ducks vs. San Jose, Honda Center in Anaheim, Tuesday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket
= Ducks at Arizona, Saturday at 7 p.m.

09.16.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1Going head-to-head as TV show against the Prime-Time Emmy Awards show in Los Angeles is always a risk. As that event happens on Fox this Sunday night, the Rams will go to Cleveland (5:20 p.m., Channel 4) for a really cool event in the NFL100 celebration. Remember, of course, this is the city that birthed the Rams franchise, in 1936, found by an Ohio attorney named Homer Marshman with a player-coach Damon Wetzel, a former Ohio State star. Wetzel named them the Rams after his favorite college football team, Fordham University (home of Vin Scully).
They joined the NFL in Feb., 1937, had the league MVP in rookie fullback Parker Hall in ’39, were bought up by Dan Reeves and Fred Levy in ‘44, who then brought on Bob Hope as a part-owner, suspended operations during WWII, but then landed UCLA rookie Bob Waterfield to run the show in ’45 and become league MVP while winning the NFL championship at Cleveland Municipal Stadium before 32,178.

1111s-l1600Then Reeves moved everything to L.A., to this glorious Coliseum stadium that needed someone other than USC to rule. They finally got horns painted onto their helmets in 1948, and made the NFL title game four times in six years. That included these L.A. Rams defeating the upstart Cleveland Browns in 1951 at the Coliseum, but then losing to Cleveland in the 1949, ’50 and ’55 championship. In that ’55 title game, NBC paid $100,000 to do the first televised league title game, on the day after Christmas, a Monday night, at the Coliseum between Norm Van Brocklin and the Rams against Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns. On the call: The Rams’ Bob Kelley with Ken Coleman. Surely, NBC will cover all this history, right?
Also this week:
= Chargers vs. Houston, Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Sunday at 1:25 p.m., Channel 2
The rest of the Week 3 schedule:
= Tennessee at Jacksonville, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network
CBS early window (10 a.m.)
= Cincinnati at Buffalo, Atlanta at Indianapolis, Baltimore at Kansas City, N.Y. Jets at New England
Fox early window (10 a.m.)
= Miami at Dallas, Denver at Green Bay, Oakland at Minnesota, Detroit at Philadelphia
CBS late window (1:25 p.m., blacked out in L.A.)
= Pittsburgh at San Francisco, New Orleans at Seattle


NUMBER 2The interesting aspect pointed out about the latest Associated Press college football poll going into Week 4 – again, it matters nothing in the grand scheme of things, just as about as effective as a rectal thermometer in trying to gauge a temperature of the sport – is half of the Pac 12 Conference has made it into the Top 25. Does that show a resurgence? The last time the Pac-12 had six ranked teams was Nov. 8, 2015. Hardly, because neither USC or UCLA are there now, and that’s missed marquee value. And they’re already posting stories about whether the Pac-12 has already missed its window for a College Football Playoff bid for the third straight season.
Is Pac-12 already out of the playoff race? The Trojans (2-1, 1-0) actually fell out of the AP poll with that tentative No. 24 spot by losing in overtime at BYU, otherwise there could be seven teams in. Utah (3-0), now finished with non-conference play,  barely gets into the Top 10, so that’s nothing to crow about, as the Utes come to L.A. to face USC in one of those odd Friday night affairs (6 p.m., FS1). Washington State, also 3-0 against all non-conference foes and in at No. 19, play host to UCLA (0-3) at the Paloose (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN).
Also this week in the Pac 12:
Conference games:
Oregon at Stanford, Saturday at 4 p.m., ESPN
Colorado at Arizona State, Saturday at 7 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Non-conference games:
Cal at Mississippi, Sunday at 9 a.m., ESPNU
Washington at BYU, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7
Bye week: Arizona, Oregon State

Also of interest this week:
Air Force at Boise State, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Southern Miss at Alabama, 9 a.m., ESPN2
Tennessee at Florida, 9 a.m., ESPN
Michigan at Wisconsin, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Auburn at Texas A&M, 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
Charlotte at Clemson, 4:30 p.m., ACC Network
Oklahoma State at Texas, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7
Notre Dame at Georgia, 5 p.m., Channel 2


NUMBER 3The Dodgers spread their final five games of the regular season at home over a seven-day week, leading into the annual Fan Appreciation Day, and including a couple more bobblehead nights along the way. Let’s just be safe trying to rack up that 100th win.
The Angels, meanwhile, can’t possibly suffer much more indignity.
How the week plays out for the Dodgers (97-54, dropping from No. 1 to No. 2 in the ESPN MLB Power Rankings behind Houston):
Vs. Tampa Bay at Dodger Stadium:
Tuesday at 7:10 p.m., YouTube (Blake Snell vs. Ross Stripling)
Wednesday at 5:10 p.m., SportsNet LA (Brendan McKay vs. Tony Gonsolin)
Vs. Colorado at Dodger Stadium:
Friday at 7:10 p.m., SNLA (Peter Lambert vs. Clayton Kershaw)
Saturday at 6:10 p.m., SNLA, Channel 5 (Chi Chi Gonzalez vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu)
Sunday at 1:10 p.m., SNLA (Antonio Senzatela vs. Walker Buehler)

How the week plays out for the Angels (68-82, losers in 10 of their last 13:
At New York Yankees:
Tuesday at 3:35 p.m., FSW (Jose Suarez vs. Luis Severino)
Wednesday at 3:35 p.m., FSW (Dillon Peters vs. CC Sabathia)
Thursday at 3:35 p.m., FSW (Andrew Heaney vs. J.A. Happ)
At Houston:
Friday at 5:10 p.m., FSW (Jaime Barria vs. Zack Greinke)
Saturday at 4:10 p.m., FSW (Patrick Sandoval vs. Wade Miley)
Sunday at 11:10 a.m., FSW (Jose Suarez vs. Justin Verlander)


NUMBER 4The WNBA playoffs go to a best-of-five semifinal format, so the No. 3 seeded Sparks, having brushed aside Seattle in a one-or-done contest Sunday at Staples Center, start the next round at Connecticut, against a Suns team that took the No. 2 seed and watched the first two rounds of the playoffs breeze by them. In three regular-season meetings, the Sparks won two of them, both in L.A. The Sun finished 15-2 at home, including an 89-77 decision over the Sparks in June, but were just 8-9 on the road. As far as storylines go, it’s a reunion between the Sun and former forward Chiney Ogwumike, traded to the Sparks nearly a month before the 2019 season. Although her time in Connecticut was marred by injury, Ogwumike averaged 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds in three seasons with the Sun. Since joining sister Nneka on the Sparks, Chiney has averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.
The series (with the winner advances to the best-of-five finals against Las Vegas or Washington starting Sept. 29):
= At Connecticut, Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
= At Connecticut, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ESPN2
= At The Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State, Sunday at 4 p.m., ESPN2


NUMBER 5Four games remain in the regular season for playoff-secure LAFC (19-4-7, best in the Western Conference with 64 points) and the playoff-insecure Galaxy (14-13-3, fifth in the West, one of seven teams fighting for the final six spots in the West and separated by just six points).
The next steps:
= LAFC vs. Toronto, Banc of California Stadium, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., YouTube TV
= Galaxy vs. Montreal, Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet


The NFL at 100: What pro football movie from Hollywood’s “based on a true story” still resonates?

In a world that loves football almost as much as it loves Hollywood, one man may sum up the enduring connection between the sport and the silver screen.

Mark Ellis photo InvincibleConsider a bartender, who became a wide receiver, who became an inspiration.

“It’s going through life’s ups and downs and how it all comes together in the end,” says Vince Papale, whose improbable story of becoming an NFL player with the Philadelphia Eagles at age 30 in 1976 was turned into the 2006 movie “Invincible.”

“It’s when the audience understands that at a certain point, we’re not just superheroes or Marvel characters. I was an outlier, trying to break into the establishment. Maybe I was trying to break down a force field, but I can look at that movie now 13 years later and see a character, that happens to be me, who goes deeper than a football player.”

Screen_Shot_2019_01_31_at_4.23.31_PM.0Indeed, the best football films break free of the sports-movie genre and do more than just tackle standard box-office genres of drama or comedy. They examine personal relationships, the lure of competition, the influence of money and the price of power. They mirror society’s concerns about fairness, justice and truth.

They even allow us to suspend our imagination and wonder if a team owner can be reincarnated as a quarterback and lead his team to victory in the Super Bowl.

Here’s our piece for the Sports Business Journal that is included in its NFL at 100 issue for Sept. 2-8, with commentary from Terry Bradshaw, Al Michaels, Andrea Kreamer, Amy Trask, Beth Mowins, producers Mark Ciardi and Mark Ellis and screenwriter Scott Rothman.

09.02.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1Without 2020 foresight, we’ve got no strong guess as to who will live it up in Super Bowl LIV this February in Miami. A Rams-Patriots rematch would be one thing. A Rams-Chargers strategy meeting prior to sharing a new stadium in Inglewood would be quite a Hollywood ending.
Then we have our friend, Norman Chad, declaring the Jacksonville Jags his “2019 Team of Destiny,” if only for the basic logic is that’s where Nick Foles is these days. The one-time Rams backup QB is taking over a team once led by Blake Bortles, now the current Rams’ backup to Jarred Goff. The Rams don’t face Jacksonville in the regular season, so there is no awkwardness to deal with. But honest to goodness, we didn’t even know the Jags were in the AFC South with Tennessee, Indianapolis and Houston until we just looked it up.
The Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs are actually the co 6-to-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl according to VegasInsider.com, with the Rams among four teams at 12-to-1 (with Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia.) The Chargers come in at 18-to-1. The Jags? The 13th favorite at 25-to-1.

Indianapolis, which just saw starting QB Andrew Luck shut it down, are now 60-to-1 coming into the season opener at the Dignity Health Park Center in Carson to meet up with the Chargers (Sunday, 1:05 p.m., Channel 2).
The Carolina Panthers, who are concerned about QB Cam Newton’s foot sprain, are 50-to-1 when they meet up with the Rams (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11).
Does all this increase the odds of hearing more about betting lines and all those things as legalized sports gambling spreads more into different states? At CBS’ preseason thing the other day, Sean McManus hinted he might be willing to loosen up about their attitude talking about betting during coverage. NBC’s Al Michaels said last week: “I don’t know how this is going to turn out in the long run, because to me this is the great unknown. How to incorporate not only the gambling into the telecast, but how this whole thing will work as it probably gets [passed] in almost every state in the country. We will probably see the day when fans are going to sit in the stands with their mobile devices and bet whether we get a run or pass on third down. Maybe we’re going there. I don’t know. I think most people who have bet on the game don’t have to be told what the points spread is. … To me, the game is the thing. We’re there to report on the game. Maybe there will be a special side door gambling telecast. To me, football is great, sports are great because of the competition and the drama and the excitement. If you get overwhelmed about all this craziness about betting on a run or pass on third down, to me you’re just losing the essence of why you’re playing these games in the first place.”

Also in NFL Week 1:
* Green Bay at Chicago, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4
* N.Y. Giants at Dallas, 1:25 p.m., Channel 11
* Pittsburgh at New England, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4
Via NFL Sunday Ticket in L.A.:
In the 10 a.m. window:
* Tennessee at Cleveland; Baltimore at Miami; Buffalo at N.Y. Jets; Kansas City at Jacksonville; Atlanta at Minnesota
In the 1:05 p.m. window:
* Cincinnati at Seattle; Detroit at Arizona; San Francisco at Tampa Bay


NUMBER 2Week 2 of the college football season – USC and Stanford are already in backup QB mode starting the Pac-12 schedule with a meeting at the Coliseum (Saturday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN) that is supposed to a ways into figuring out just how powerful the conference is or isn’t (depending on your narrative). By some flawed logic, this is the sixth straight seson and seventh in the last eight that the Trojans and Cardinal open league play against each other. Stanford is USC’s oldest rival, by the way, going back to 1905. This is also a match up of the St. Brown brothers — USC’s Amon-Rai St. Brown and Stanford’s Osirius St. Brown — are on the field together.
Earlier in the day, UCLA tries to get on track against visiting San Diego State at the Rose Bowl (Saturday at 1:15 p.m., Pac 12 Network)
Also this week in the Pac 12:
Conference games:
* Cal at Washington, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., FS1
Non-conference games:
* Sacramento State at Arizona State, Friday at 7 p.m., Pac 12 Net
* Northern Illinois at Utah, 10 a.m., Pac 12 Net
* Northern Colorado at Washington State, 2 p.m., Pac 12 Net
* Nebraska at Colorado, Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 11
* Nevada at Oregon, Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Pac 12 Net
* Northern Arizona at Arizona, Saturday at 7:45 p.m., Pac 12 Net
* Oregon State at Hawaii, Saturday at 9 p.m.
Games of national interest:
* Notre Dame at Louisville, 5 p.m., ESPN
* Cincinnati at Ohio State, 9 a.m., Channel 7
* Army at Michigan, 9 a.m., Channel 11
* New Mexico State at Alabama, 1 p.m., SEC Network
* BYU at Tennessee, 4 p.m., ESPN
* LSU at Texas, 4:30 p.m., Channel 7


NUMBER 3Serena Williams had a very good day on Sunday, writes David Waldstein in the New York Times. “The weather was perfect, it was her daughter’s second birthday, and some potential traffic in her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title cleared out in front of her.” Second-seeded Ashleigh Barty and third-seeded Karolina Pliskova, both of whom were in Williams’s half of the draw, lost. Only No. 1 Naomi Osaka and No. 5 Elina Svitolina remain from the top five women’s seeds. So let’s see how this plays out.
More info: www.usopen.org


NUMBER 4Tommy Lasorda turns 92 on Sept. 22, but the Dodgers have decided to honor him with another bobblehead on Wednesday, even though his birthday will fall on Fan Appreciation Day Sunday. Perhaps Wednesday is the day they officially clinch the NL West title, their seventh in a row, but our math could be way off. Whatever leads to Alanna Rizzo wearing a Dodgers cap, jersey and waving a pennant from her spot next to the dugout.
Meanwhile, the Angels get a day off on Labor Day. How does that happen?

How the week plays out for the Dodgers (with an NL-best 89-50 mark, 18 games up in the NL West, 52-18 at home):
* Vs. Colorado at Dodger Stadium (all on SNLA:
Monday at 5:10 p.m. (Peter Lambert vs. Walker Buehler)
Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. (Chi Chi Gonzalez vs. Kenta Maeda)
Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. (Antonio Senzatela vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu)
* Vs. San Francisco at Dodger Stadium (all on SNLA):
Friday at 7:10 p.m. (Jeff Samardzija vs. Tony Gonsolin)
Saturday at 6:10 p.m. (also on Channel 5) (Tyler Beede vs. Clayton Kershaw)
Sunday at 1:10 p.m. (Dereck Rodriguez vs. Ross Stripling)
How the week plays out for the Angels (65-73 in the AL West, 14 1/2 games back in the wildcard):
* At Oakland (all on FSW)
Tuesday at 7:07 p.m. (Jaime Barria vs. Mike Fiers)
Wednesday at 7:07 p.m. (Patrick Sandoval vs. Tanner Roark)
Thursday at 12:37 p.m. (Jose Suarez vs. Chris Bassitt)
* At Chicago White Sox (all on FSW):
Friday at 5:10 p.m. (Dillon Peters vs. Lucas Giolito)
Saturday at 4:10 p.m. (Andrew Heaney vs. Ross Detwiler)
Sunday at 11:10 a.m. (Jaime Barria vs. Dylan Cease)


NUMBER 5The WNBA regular season ends Sunday, and the odd-structured playoffs launch right after that based on overall records. The Sparks have the second-best home record in the league at 12-2 if that matters when they play their final three:
How the week ends for the Sparks (19-12, a half-game back of Las Vegas in the Western Conference, with the No. 4 overall spot in the playoffs, four games back of Washington):
* Vs. Atlanta at Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
* Vs. Seattle at Staples Center, Thursday at 7 p.m., CBSSN, SSN
* Vs. Minnesota at Staples Center, Sunday at 1 p.m., ESPN2

* In the MLS: LAFC at Orlando City SC, Saturday at 4:30 p.m., YouTube TV (as the Galaxy has a bye week)
* Soccer: Argentina vs. Chile friendly, Coliseum, Thursday at 7 p.m.