As we wrap up the last week of September, I can’t help but think of it as the calm before the storm.
October is one of my favorite months of the year. I love that the weather is getting a little cooler, the leaves are beginning to change and it’s the perfect opportunity to start watching some scary movies to prepare for Halloween. But I’m not going to get into that too much. There’s a storm coming.
That storm is the IHSAA playoffs. By the time this column is published on Thursday, the boys tennis sectionals will begin with four local teams competing at Warsaw to advance to the regional. The girls golf state finals begin on Friday, with Abbey Peterson representing the Lady Tigers and Kosciusko county as an individual competitor. Best of Luck, Ms. Peterson!
Over the next month or so, the incredibly busy fall sports season will come to a screeching halt. By the end of October, state champions will have been crowned in boys and girls soccer, tennis and cross country. The first week of November will decide the state champs for volleyball, and of course, the football playoffs conclude at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 25.
There are local teams, and athletes, to be excited about in each of these sports. It’s been a fantastic season for the Warsaw cross country teams, and both figure to make a run at the state finals in Terre Haute. On the girls side, both Warsaw’s Joey Rastrelli and Tippecanoe Valley’s Chesnee Miller look to be threats for a state title. Miller has broken her own school record three times this year alone.
Both the Warsaw and Triton volleyball teams are having tremendous seasons and should both be favorites to win their sectionals.
Four of the five boys soccer teams (Warsaw, Tippecanoe Valley, Manchester and Lakeland Christian) will go into the playoffs above .500 and will be a tough out for anyone.
Warsaw girls soccer, under new head coach Clive Scott, has a chance to win conference against Northridge tonight and will be a handful for any team that has to deal with them in the playoffs. The Lady Tigers will host their sectional.
There’s plenty to be excited about as sectional season quickly approaches, and I can’t wait to see how our area teams and athletes fare! Best of luck to each and every one of you. The Times-Union is rooting you on!
This week’s quick hitters:
The Missouri Tigers are 4-0. My friends, who I’m sure already think I’m annoying, will have a different animal to deal with if this trend continues.
I enjoyed a Sunday at Six Flags Great America this past weekend, meaning it was the first time in a long time I wasn’t watching any football on Sunday. Though that’s not entirely true, I did have Red Zone on my phone while waiting in line for rides.
No, I do not care that Taylor Swift was at the Chiefs-Bears game last week.
The Notre Dame-Ohio State game on Saturday night was one of the best, high-level games I’ve seen played in quite some time. It’s a bummer the Irish couldn’t finish it off.
This week, we go for three straight weeks of 10+ wins. It won’t be an easy task, but those who read this column every week know I am up for the challenge. Let’s do this.
Detroit Lions (-1.5) at Green Bay Packers
This is an intriguing matchup to begin Week 4, with the winner here getting an early advantage in the NFC North. Detroit got back on track with a big win over Atlanta last week while the Packers came back from down 17 in the fourth to steal a win from New Orleans. I think the Lions are the better team, but there is some black magic at work at Lambeau Field. Despite this, I think the injury bug is hurting Green Bay more right now. Aaron Jones and Christian Watson are trending toward returning this week, but the Packers’ O-Line is pretty beat up. Expect a big game from Aiden Hutchinson.
The Pick: Lions -1.5
ACROSS THE POND
Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3)
The Jaguars are playing in London, their home away from home, for the first international game this season. Both Jacksonville and Atlanta come into this one searching for an identity, with each side suffering lopsided losses last weekend. The Falcons have so many talented guys at skill positions, but is Desmond Ridder the right guy to get them the ball? I don’t really know what’s going on with the Jags offense either, but I do have more faith in Trevor Lawrence at the QB spot.
The Pick: Jaguars -3
1 O’CLOCK SUNDAY
Denver Broncos (-3.5) at Chicago Bears
The Broncos gave up 70 points and lost by 50 last week and are still favorites in this game. Burn Halas Hall to the ground.
The Pick: Broncos -3.5
Los Angeles Rams at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5)
The Colts might be a whole lot better than folks were giving them credit for before the season started. Indy took down a very good Ravens team with backup QB Gardner Minshew under center last week. The Rams offense came back down to earth against the Bengals on Monday, but the defense did its job for the most part. This is a tough one for me. I still believe in the Rams but the Colts have been very frisky over the first few weeks. I think if Anthony Richardson makes his return, the Colts can pull this off.
The Pick: Colts -1.5
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-3)
This is a game everybody should try to tune into on Sunday. These are two of the best teams in the league squaring off in an early divisional matchup. The Bills have looked very incredible in the two games they’ve played since losing to the Jets in their first contest. Miami, fresh off scoring 70 points last week, might have the best offense I’ve ever seen through three weeks this season. This should be a great game, but until I see the Dolphins look mortal, I can’t go against them. They look too good.
The Pick: Dolphins +3
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (-2.5)
This is another great matchup during Sunday’s early slate. The Browns boast perhaps the best defense in the entire league up to this point, but this is most likely the best offensive unit they’ll have faced this season. The Ravens dropped their first game of the year to the Colts on Sunday, but were victims to a missed pass interference call late. I feel like I’ve disrespected Cleveland this season, picking against them all three times so far (1-2). On the other hand, I’ve picked Baltimore all three times (2-1). I’m going to keep my system going. Baltimore wins a very tough game.
The Pick: Ravens +2.5
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Houston Texans
Don’t look now, but rookie QB C.J. Stroud and the Texans have been playing some good ball lately. Houston crushed the Jags as heavy underdogs last week, with Stroud looking incredible. The Steelers have rattled off two wins in a row with some great defense and the offense starting to come along. This will be one of Stroud’s biggest challenges so far in his young career, and I’m interested in seeing how he responds. I think he continues to look like the real deal and the Texans pull off the upset for the second week in a row.
The Pick: Texans +3
Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) at Carolina Panthers
One of these winless teams will have to pick up their first of the season in Charlotte this weekend. The Vikings are now 0-3 in one-score games after going 11-1 last season, while the Panthers are already without No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, as he’s week-to-week with an ankle injury. Andy Dalton started for Carolina last week and will most likely do so again. This pick feels a little too easy for me. The Panthers have too many problems on both sides of the ball and the Vikings are the more talented team, and much better than their record indicates.
The Pick: Vikings -3.5
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Tennessee Titans
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bengals finally picked up their first win of the year over the Rams on Monday night. Joe Burrow still doesn’t look 100%, but a huge night from receiver Ja’Marr Chase helped in a big way. The Titans offense looked downright bad for the second time in three weeks against the Browns on Sunday, but every offense that has faced off with Cleveland has. While Tennessee might look a little better in this one, I still think the firepower Cincy possesses is too much.
The Pick: Bengals -2.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3)
Both teams suffered their first losses this past weekend after heading into their respective games 2-0. The Saints were up 17-0 in the fourth on the Packers before collapsing and losing Derek Carr to injury. It could be Jameis Winston this weekend for New Orleans. Baker Mayfield did not light up the Philadelphia defense like he had against the Vikings and Bears, but that shouldn’t be surprising. Mayfield has another stout defense to deal with this week, but the Saints offense has left a lot to be desired. They will get a boost with Alvin Kamara returning, however.
The Pick: Buccaneers +3
Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles (-8.5)
Another 2-0 team to face reality last week, the Commanders were crushed by Buffalo at home. The Eagles are still undefeated and while the team doesn’t look as incredible as last year’s NFC Champions, the Birds still look like a top team in the league. This is the first big line of the week, and while I think Washington won’t look as bad as they did last week, I still don’t think they have the ammo to keep up with the Eagles. The Commanders were the first team to hand the Eagles a loss in 2022, doing so in Philly. The Birds will remember, and the Birds will get revenge.
The Pick: Eagles -8.5
LATE AFTERNOON SLATE
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5)
Who will start at quarterback for Vegas in this game remains a mystery, as Jimmy Garoppolo is in concussion protocol with Brian Hoyer and former Purdue Boilermaker Aiden O’Connell as backups. The Chargers have injury issues of their own, losing receiver Mike Williams to a torn ACL last week. There’s hope that Austin Ekeler could make his return in this one. I don’t think the Raiders are very good but the Chargers are not a team that goes around winning lopsided games. In this case, I think LA does pull it off.
The Pick: Chargers -5.5
New England Patriots at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5)
The Cowboys laid perhaps the biggest egg of the young season so far by losing to Arizona as 12.5 point favorites last week. Obviously, the team misses Trevon Diggs on defense. The Patriots finally picked up a win last week, but it was against the Jets, a team New England has dominated for years. The Cowboys still have glaring problems on offense that had gone under the radar the first couple of weeks because of the defensive dominance. I think the Pats defense can do enough to keep this a one score game.
The Pick: Patriots +6.5
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-14)
We’ve reached the largest spread of the week and the season so far. I think it speaks to just how good the Niners are, because Arizona has looked way better than expected through three weeks. This will definitely be the best team the Cardinals have faced so far, but do they really deserve to be two touchdown underdogs? I have a feeling this could be the game in which Arizona looks like the team that many expected them to at the beginning of the season. Niners keep rolling.
The Pick: 49ers -14
WAITIN’ ALL DAY FOR A SUNDAY NIGHT
Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) at New York Jets
I would be very excited to watch this game in primetime if Aaron Rodgers was still healthy. Instead, I’m probably going to go see a movie on Sunday night. Zach Wilson is clearly not the answer for the Jets, but the team keeps trotting him out there. How long before Robert Saleh loses his locker room? This should be business as usual for Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes loves putting on a show in primetime.
The Pick: Chiefs -9.5
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants (-1.5)
For the third time in four weeks, the Giants are playing in a standalone game. This time, they’ve got the Seahawks, who have looked good over the past couple of games after dropping their first contest. There’s a chance Saquon Barkey returns for the G-Men in this one, but the team has described it as a stretch. I just don’t think the Giants offense has what it takes to keep up with Seattle’s especially with their biggest explosive-play threat most likely out. The Seahawks go into the Meadowlands and come out with a win.
The Pick: Seahawks +1.5
After three weeks of averaging 10 wins a week, I am more worried than ever that the dry spell is coming. Hopefully we can keep avoiding it though. Looking forward to another great week of football.
Last Week’s Record: 10-6
Season Record: 30-17-1