A lot can happen in the past five weeks. My friend gave birth to her daughter, the weather got colder here in Cali and the Chargers went literally from dead last to first. Five weeks ago they were left for dead in the AFC West. 2-3 and everybody looked suspect except for Phillip Rivers. Now here they sit atop the division after beating the Broncos.
(Sidenote - I loved how the AP mentioned in the recap that Chris Simms was nearly killed three years ago. Vivid writing. I forgot how bad dude got hurt but to just put it out there like that is whoa)
Suddenly LaDainian Tomlinson looks rejuvenated and is running with a purpose. He's not explosive but he's steady and serviceable, not old and one step from the scrap heap. Suddenly the Chargers D looks fired up, as indicated by how they played against the Giants (holding them to FG's late in the game to set up Rivers' winning drive) and the Broncos (only a FG total).
Here's the rest of the schedule - Kansas City, Cleveland, Dallas (aka choosing between 2 children), Cincinnati, Tennessee and Washington. The middle could be rough but at best they could go 5-1, finish the year 12-4 and be a team no one wants to see in the AFC (Especially the Colts who have gone 0-3 in meaningful games against the Chargers the last five years).
I'm getting ahead of myself but the road clearly gets better from darkness to light. Now if only I could solve my Cowboys' problem with their offense (2 scores on 23 possessions??), the only thing keeping me from being happy about their own run and the Giants/Eagles melting down....
Fantasy Watch: My ESPN squad is currently 5-5 and tied for 4th in my league. Brandon Jacobs is the fantasy fail of the year along with Dwayne Bowe - and wouldn't you know it, I have both in Yahoo. No wonder I'm in last place. UGH! Even with Drew Brees, Tony Gonzalez and the Minnesota D, I made some bad decisions with too many Cowboys and Giants.
UCLA basketball has a problem. The problem is they've had two great recruiting classes the last two years and that's all they have now. They're young and no one knows how to be assertive outside of sophomore Malcolm Lee.
Jerime Anderson? He's solid but not ready for prime time (and injury prone). Michael Roll is the guy who needs screens to get his shot off. Nikola Dragovic is too busy applying for Fight Club but he's a typical soft Euro player. James Keefe is decent but Drew Gordon is the best post player we got and he's undersized.
Say hello to our savior...former walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid. The game winner against Concordia. 12 points against Pepperdine. Ummm yeah, this is our leadership?
That leaves the Bruins with freshman Reeves Nelson. I'm high on him but he needs more minutes. Their best freshman is hurt right now - Tyler Honeycutt - and its too soon to judge Brendan Lane and Mike Moser. What we have here is a team that lacks an identity and is finding it on the court.
They beat Pepperdine tonight because they had better talent (although Pepperdine sophomore Keion Bell is a beast). But this will be Ben Howland's toughest year since his first year on the job. Not a lot of playmakers and if you can't create your own shot, we're going to see some stagnant offensive nights.
And speaking of UCLA/USC. I'll try to do a Rivalry Post about it while I head out to Texas for Turkey Day. But I'm calling my shot - UCLA has a great chance to win this game. Just because USC is reeling and I think the Bruins are licking their chops to finally play a great game in the Coliseum. And both teams know they need to win to secure a bowl game. For the first time both teams have something to play for.
Congrats to Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols for winning the MVP. Mauer is the best hitting catcher since Mike Piazza is his prime (who voted for Cabrera with a 1st place vote over Jeter and Teixiera??) and dude has 3 batting titles and an MVP at 26. Pujols will win tomorrow unanimously and it's not even a contest. Welcome to the 3-time MVP club before he turns 29. Ridiculous how good he is.