Sports aren’t quite back yet, but they’re getting close. The NBA and NHL are set to start in July, and the NFL will start training camp at that point. The MLB is working on a deal to do the same. But in the meantime, I’ll be working on predictions for these returns, and continuing with NFL off-season coverage, in the form of fantasy football content (on my @bsmfantasyfootball Instagram account) and finishing this draft report card series with NFC draft reviews. Today I’ll be reviewing the NFC East, and you can check out the previous posts in the series as well:
The Cowboys had a very strong draft, getting several steals in the form of CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, and Tyler Biadasz. In addition they filled most of their big needs, as they added to the secondary and receiving corps and brought in Gallimore, a young, talented player to pair with veteran DTs Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. They could’ve used a TE to pair with Blake Jarwin, but it appears they’ll give Jarwin a chance to shine in a 3 WR, 1 TE offense. They also could’ve used more depth at safety, but they should be fine with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Xavier Woods, and Darian Thompson there, especially after bolstering the CB depth chart by drafting two of them. This draft wasn’t perfect, but it filled most of Dallas’ needs and included multiple steals, so it’s pretty close to it.
New York Giants: B+
The Giants could’ve used some more defensive line help here, but they did add to their secondary and offensive line, two of their other big positions of need. I feel they reached on some of their picks, especially in the later rounds, and they should’ve been filling the d-line need before drafting a bunch of linebackers in those later rounds. I did like the early round picks of Andrew Thomas and Xavier McKinney, as they were good value selections that filled needs. But they could’ve finished this off better despite a strong draft overall.
Philadelphia Eagles: B-
The Eagles had three major needs coming into this draft: WR, LB, and the secondary. The team made en effort to fill all three of those needs, but there was no need to take QB Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round, and they also reached on many of the WRs and LBs they drafted when here were better options at the position on the board. The Eagles also brought in a couple of Auburn players to add to a deep offensive line, which they’ll be thankful for with Brandon Brooks getting hurt. The team did reach on several players and could’ve done better, but they will benefit from this draft class.
Washington Redskins: C+
The Redskins reached on a lot of their later selections, and they could’ve added more linebackers and drafted a tight end. They did get star edge rusher Chase Young though, and I liked the Antonio Gandy-Golden pick as it filled a need at WR and provided the team with good value. This draft class had some highlights, but overall I wasn’t that impressed with the value the Redskins received, and the team is left with holes even after the draft.
That’s all for my NFC East draft reviews. Stay tuned for more draft reviews soon.
Below, I have shared some of the highlights of “Life Without Sports”, my journal of the 75 days I spent in social distancing without any sports to look forward to. This spanned from Friday, March 13, the first sports-less day, to Tuesday, May 26, when the NHL announced its plan for return and many people tried to return to some sense of normality after Memorial Day weekend. You can also check out my Return to Sports series, in which I discuss major sports leagues’ transition and plans for return.
Friday, March 13
Day 1 Without Sports
It was Friday the 13th, and that fact was fitting. On this day, the world was cursed by the coronavirus. Schools closed for weeks at a time. People, including my family, were afraid to leave the house out of worry of infecting others unknowingly or becoming infected. There were lots of questions, and many different answers. It was hard to know who to trust because nobody knew the real answer to the questions people had. With social distancing in full effect for my family, I passed time by instead of watching games like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, like I usually do, taking on my family in games like Monopoly and Scrabble. Usually, I have a very busy life between school, maintaining this website, and other extracurricular activities. But I found myself searching for things to do this first day. I wasn’t enjoying the lack of sports, but I was glad people were taking this seriously, as the virus can spread really fast without our knowledge.
Tuesday, March 17
Day 5 Without Sports
I woke up, and it was all over. The Patriots dynasty was over. On this St. Patrick’s Day, Tom Brady had announced his departure from the Patriots. Sports stations continued to ramble on about where Brady would go, but later that day, it was reported that Tom Brady would become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Meanwhile, as Brady and other QBs signed, Bill Belichick just sat pretty. He let Brady leave, and he let go of the opportunity to sign a good replacement. I trusted in Bill Belichick for all these years, but the truth is that he has been very stubborn with players’ contracts, refusing to maintain relationships with or resign expensive players and instead trying to find hidden gems in free agency or the draft. Sometimes this works out well, but other times, it doesn’t. Brady did a good job leading the team, allowing other players and the whole team to succeed. Belichick’s coaching did help get him to where he is today, but Belichick refused to pay Brady like the superstar he is. For that reason, he left. I’ve grown up in the Brady-Belichick era, and as the two of them split, I’m still a Pats fan, but I will always be a Tom Brady fan. He had every right to leave, and I don’t think he wanted money simply to get richer. I think he wanted the money he felt he deserved as a top player in the league. He wanted to be making as much as most other starting QBs. It was good to have some sports news, but it was a sad day for Boston sports fans.
Saturday, March 28
Day 16 Without Sports
I woke up to my dad playing on a Monopoly app on my iPad. We ended up playing with my cousins, but the “house rules” we usually use in Monopoly weren’t working right the first game, and without money bonuses like Free Parking and $400 for landing on GO, everyone ran out of money fairly quickly. We found a way to add the house rules and played two more games with my other cousin Michael. Michael was my cousin from my dad’s side of the family, and back during the blizzard of ‘78, my dad played a ton of Monopoly with Michael’s mom (my dad’s sister), Stacey. They would face off the next day, bringing back memories, but after 3 games, we all wanted a break. A bad trade my brother had made in our final game had ruined my game, ruined his game and allowed my dad to win as usual.
Monday, April 6
Day 25 Without Sports
I had set up a new routine for myself, including when I would get work done, when I would work on blog articles, and more. On the first day of online school, it went well. I attended four online classes on Zoom and got the chance to catch up with some school friends. Even though I couldn’t see my friends, I didn’t mind the online school because I do most of my assignments on a computer anyways. On Day 1, I did my work fairly quickly, went on a walk since it was a 60 degree day, and relaxed.
Wednesday, April 8
Day 27 Without Sports
It was my half birthday today, a very special half birthday. I had turned 16.5. I thought maybe I’d get the chance to drive on this day (although I haven’t had the chance to start driver’s ed yet). I never would’ve thought I would spend my half birthday in quarantine, but it was worth it to avoid becoming a carrier of this deadly virus. With New York approaching its peak and Massachusetts looking like it was next, I was hopeful that a decline would come in another several weeks and we’d be able to return to normal life.
Friday, April 10
Day 29 Without Sports
It was Good Friday, so we would’ve had a day off from school normally. For Algonquin, every Friday of online school was simply a day to catch up on work. All of my work that was left to do was due Monday, not that night. So I decided to just relax and save my work for the weekend. I needed to take days off sometimes, especially since April Break was canceled.
Wednesday, April 15
Day 34 Without Sports
It was the anniversary of another crisis, the Boston Marathon bombings. It was the last time Boston went into lockdown. We were Boston Strong back then, and we need to be Boston Strong now. Andrew Cuomo has even used a similar phrase for New York, “New York Tough”, during this crisis. I got my work done a little earlier today as well, but I was distracted by Jay Glazer’s hint at big football news that night at 11. What could it be? There were rumors of Gronk’s return. There were rumors of another Odell Beckham Jr. trade. But I wouldn’t know for sure until later that night. It turned out the big news was just another coronavirus update, though Gronk would unretire later.
Thursday, April 23
Day 42 Without Sports
Sports seasons were still on pause in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but after 6 weeks sports fans finally had a live event to watch: the 2020 NFL Draft. The draft would be conducted virtually, as one of the most important parts of the NFL’s virtual 2020 off-season that despite modifications has been 100% on schedule so far. I got my work done fairly quickly so I could watch the draft after. But I was distracted by draft rumors throughout the day. I live tweeted during round one, providing my grades for each pick. In the meantime, I created a draft group chat with two of my friends who are also huge NFL fans. The draft was fairly unsurprising on night one, but it was about to get crazy. I didn’t understand why the Patriots traded down, but looking back at the player they wanted, I’m glad they did.
Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3
Days 51 and 52 Without Sports
On Saturday, I ended up taking the day to relax with my parents and we discovered two Amazon Prime shows, Catastrophe and Red Oaks. We started Catastrophe Saturday night. Sunday, we visited my grandparents (with social distancing of course) to pick up some groceries they got us and catch up in person. We all stood in their yard, keeping our distance while we chatted with them. It was hard for my grandpa, who has hearing problems, but he was happy to see our faces. Plus, it was my brother Ryan’s first time outside in 52 days, and the perfect weather for it. Once we got home and cleaned off, we got into Red Oaks, which was even more addictive than Catastrophe and hard to stop watching. The show is about a country club and the community around it. The main characters are all college-age and work there for summer jobs.
Monday, May 18
Day 67 Without Sports
Massachusetts had begun to reopen. Essential businesses were back today, and in a week public parks and some other places would be back open. It was a nice sliver of hope during a tough time. I was hopeful Boston sports were up next, and I was hoping I’d be able to see some of my friends soon. As usual for Mondays, I took a while to get my work done. Plus, “Mock Draft Monday” had become a regular occurrence for fantasy football fans, and I joined another live mock draft today before my work was done.
Tuesday, May 19
Day 68 Without Sports
I took a while to get started off the bat today, but got my work done in time to play Monopoly with a family friend, Mark Goldfinger per the usual on Tuesdays. While I did my work, my parents returned my mom’s car (the lease had expired). We would use my dad’s until he had to go back to work. Today, for the first time in our Tuesday games, I won. I started off with just one small Monopoly, but knocked out my brother and my dad to grab hold of more Monopolies. After the game, we had tacos for dinner and continued another Amazon show we had found, Upload.
Tuesday, May 26
Day 75 Without Sports
I had a busy week of school ahead, which I wasn’t happy about. But I got my work done quickly, and when I finished, I realized that Life Without Sports was about to come to an end. No, a major sports league was not returning the next day. But the NHL had announced they’d be dropping the official schedule for their 24-team playoffs, which had been approved by league owners and the NHLPA. With this, I wouldn’t have sports back, but a return would be in sight. Plus, until hockey did actually return, I had found ways to incorporate sports into a sports-less world, and I had found other things to distract me from their absence. I had learned to live life without sports, but did I miss them? Definitely. Would life be better with sports back? No doubt about it. Did I still want to work in sports? Absolutely.
When it comes to sports news, this week has been a tale of two extremes. The NBA started the week off rather quiet after Adam Silver discussed his hope to bring the NBA back on July, but over the last couple of days he has put the proposal into action, ironing out the details and giving it to the NBA owners for a vote. Now, the NBA joins the NHL among sports leagues with an official plan to return.
The only major sports league that hasn’t worked out the details is the MLB. Early this week, it appeared that the MLB and MLBPA were making progress with their negotiations. The owners rejected the MLBPA’s 114-game proposal with the original prorated salary plan the MLB decided upon in March. The MLB considered a counter to the plan with 50-60 games and that same prorated salary, but decided not to counter. Now, negotiations are at a standstill until the MLBPA sends in a better plan, and reports are saying both sides have “greater pessimism than ever before” about a 2020 season happening at all.
Today, I’ll be writing about the latest details on the NBA’s return and explain my return to play plan that I think the MLB and MLBPA would both agree to.
Let’s start with the good news from the NBA.
NBA to Bring 22 teams to Orlando for July 31 Return to Play
The NBA’s plan for a July 31 return. Below I have outlined what new information we have received since my last update, what I think of this plan and what I think the return could look like logistically.
What we now know:
The NBA has decided upon a 22 team format for it’s return
The top 8 from each conference as well as the next 6 teams in the overall standings (listed above) will be included
Teams will play 8 “regular season” games in order to reach 70+ games and determine seeding for the playoffs
The games will be determined based on the original remaining schedule, but not all details are finalized
One report said that teams will play their next 8 games that are against other teams in the NBA bubble. If their upcoming opponent is not in the bubble or has already played 8 games, the opponent will be skipped
If the #9 seed is within four games of the #8 seed, there will be a play-in series:
The 8 seed would start with a 1-0 advantage in a 3 game series
This means the 8 seed would only need to win one game, while the 9 seed would need to win two in a row
It appears that the playoffs will run as normal (8 East teams and 8 West teams seeded by conference)
Games will not begin until July 31, but training in Orlando will begin between July 9-11
The season will be completed on October 12, followed by an October 15 draft and October 18 beginning to free agency
The draft lottery will take place on August 25
Up to 7 games could be played each day, using three different arenas at Disney
The 2020-21 season is still set to begin close to Christmas; the league appears to be planning for a full 82 game season that runs through August; it could even shift the schedule permanently
My Thoughts on the Plan
I think 22 teams is kind of a weird number, and teams will likely finish with different numbers of regular season games, but the plan was based on historical late season playoff run stats, so it’s hard to argue with Adam Silver, who has a very good track record as the NBA commissioner. This plan gives players about a month to train at team facilities before traveling to Orlando in early July, when COVID-19 numbers will have likely seen a further decline. Staying inside the bubble for majority of the time and testing daily adds further safety measures to a return to play.
One thing I would like to see is some minor modifications to the schedule to make sure that each team in the bubble has played each other team in the bubble at least once. If you look at the NBA schedule from before the pause, there are three pairs of teams (out of the 22 in the bubble) that have yet to play a game this season. The Clippers have not yet played the Nets, the Raptors have not yet played the Grizzlies, and the Pelicans have not yet played the Wizards. I think each of those match-ups should happen at least once before playoff action begins.
What the Scheduling Details Could Look Like:
Considering what we know, I think the schedule for the remainder of the season and next couple seasons could look something like this:
July 31 – August 14: Resumption of Regular Season
August 16 – August 19: Play-in Games
August 21 – September 3: Conference Quarterfinals
September 4 – September 16: Conference Semifinals
September 17 – September 29: Conference Finals
September 30 – October 12: NBA Finals
October 15: 2020 NBA Draft
October 18: NBA Free Agency Begins
December 25: 2020-21 NBA Season Begins
August 2021: 2020-21 Season Ends, 2021 Draft and Free Agency
The 2021-22 season would either begin in October as normal or the NBA calendar would change permanently
Games could be aired on local stations as well as ABC, ESPN, or TNT. I think 5-6 games will be played per day during the regular season, with teams playing just about every two days (with the occasional back-to-back or drought).
I feel that the NBA could benefit from a permanent calendar change, as they would run through the winter alongside hockey and through the spring and early summer alongside baseball. Basketball’s conclusion would correlate with football’s beginning, allowing the nation’s two biggest sports to dominate.
This would be very good for the NBA and NFL, and the NHL already thrives alongside the NBA. The one sport that could be negatively impacted is baseball, which is already losing fans.
MLB Continues to Struggle in 2020 Season Negotiations
After the MLB owners rejected the MLBPA proposal for the 2020 season, it appears MLB negotiations are currently at a standstill. While other sports have reached agreements to return, the chances of a 2020 MLB season are looking slimmer and slimmer. This is because the players don’t want to take too big a pay cut if they’re going to be risking their lives, and the owners don’t want to lose revenue. You could also say poor leadership on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s part is to blame. But I think it’s important that both sides come to a compromise, because if they don’t, the consequences could be hard to recover from.
The MLB was already planning to cut minor league teams after losing revenue. If the MLB is sitting around while the NBA and NHL dominate the summer, the league will lose even more fans and even more money. If negotiations continue to go along like this, I don’t know if we’ll see baseball for a long time. The pandemic isn’t expected to be fully over until 2021, and after the 2021 MLB season, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. That would mean more negotiation between the owners and MLBPA and the potential of a league lockout. If the MLB loses two years to the virus and has a lockout after that, I can’t see them maintaining their reputation as a Big 4 sports league in the US, and I don’t know if the league will be able to survive at all, especially if the NBA pushes forward their season permanently. As an avid baseball fan, this worries me greatly, and I really hope the MLB can come to a compromise, hold a season, and continue to thrive. If this is it for baseball, Manfred and the owners, as well as the players will all be held accountable. The owners and Manfred need to understand that their current greed could bite them in the back later. The players need to understand that failure to compromise now could mean their playing careers are over.
Here is a full proposal that I think both sides could agree to. It includes things that both sides want, and includes a compromise, with players making about 50% of their salaries in a 78 game season.
With most of the country on a decline in terms of coronavirus cases, the timeline really comes down to the league’s ability to compromise. If this proposal is agreed upon soon, it could be good to start things off quickly and try and become the first sport to return, which could bring some lost fans back. In mid-June, I think it would be fine for a 2.5 week preseason to begin. With enough players on the roster, teams could scrimmage against themselves during the preseason to minimize travel. But by 4th of July weekend, I think teams should at least be able to travel to other close stadiums, which means a season could begin with modified divisions.
The Three Divisions:
East (Combined AL East and NL East)
Blue Jays Braves Marlins Mets Nationals Orioles Phillies Rays Red Sox Yankees
In the worst case scenario, teams could play at Spring Training stadiums (East in Florida, West in Arizona) and Minor League stadiums in Texas for the Central Division.
Permanent Rule Changes:
All teams play with a designated hitter
The wild card playoff round will consist of 3 games, not 1 game
The league could even abolish the AL and NL for good, or expand/realign when COVID-19 is over
Temporary Rule Changes (just this season):
No fans in the stadium
All players, coaches, reporters, and staff must go through the following process before stadium entry and stadium exit:
Mask Check (Must be wearing a mask into the stadium)
All players, coaches, reporters, and staff must wear a face mask during the game
No more than 50 people in the clubhouse or dugout at once
Teams may hold 50 players on the roster in order to make up for canceled minor league seasons, but only 30 may show up for each game
Instead of tagging players out, defenders must always tag the base
No direct contact between players, coaches, and staff is allowed
No hand-to-face contact (like pitchers licking fingers) or spitting during the game
Players may be disciplined for failing to practice social distancing measures inside or outside the stadium
Regular Season Schedule:
This season, teams should only play other teams in their revised division. Teams will play a total of 78 games across 24 series:
A home and away three-game series against each team (54 games across 18 series’)
Two extra four game series’ (home and away) against three designated rivals (24 games across 6 series’)
Here are my proposed rivalry series’. These teams will play 14 games against each other instead of the standard 6. Rivalries are based on original divisions, rivalry history, and location.
Rivalries in East Division:
Blue Jays: Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees Braves: Nationals, Marlins, Phillies Marlins: Rays, Braves, Mets Mets: Phillies, Yankees, Marlins Nationals: Braves, Phillies, Orioles Orioles: Blue Jays, Rays, Nationals Phillies: Mets, Nationals, Braves Rays: Marlins, Orioles, Red Sox Red Sox: Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays Yankees: Red Sox, Mets, Blue Jays
Teams play mostly divisional rivals in these games, but three inter-league rivalries are included in order for the schedule to work. I matched up the Yankees and Mets (cross-town rivals), Rays and Marlins (cross-state rivals), and Orioles and Nationals, who play very close to each other.
There are two obvious inter-league match-ups here. I matched up the Giants and Athletics (both Bay Area) and the Dodgers and Angels (both LA). For the third match-up, I figured I’d have the Astros, a former NL team, take on the Diamondbacks, the closest NL West team to Texas.
Playoff Schedule and Seeding:
A 24 series schedule should take about 12 weeks. 12 weeks from 4th of July weekend would take us to late September. This means the playoffs could start early, allowing for a three game wild card round.
The MLB is talking about a 14-team playoff, but I would still propose a 10-team playoff field, as 78 games is plenty of time to determine who the true contenders in the league are. Seeding would go as follows:
Seeds 1-3: Division winners seeded by record Seeds 4-6: Division runner-ups seeded by record Seeds 7-10: 4 best remaining teams (wild card teams) seeded by record
Here’s the playoff timeline I would propose:
Wild Card Series (3 games in 3 days):
September 25-September 27
Quarterfinals (5 games in 7 days):
September 29-October 5
Semifinals (7 games in 9 days):
October 7-October 15
World Series (7 games in 11 days):
October 19-October 29
A 4 day break would take place before the World Series to allow teams to rest up, in addition to rest in between World Series games. This format would also make for some interesting match-ups, as seeding is not divided by AL and NL. There could be an AL team against an NL team in Round 1, or even two teams from the same league in the World Series. Imagine a Red Sox-Yankees World Series!
The playoffs would involve more travel than the regular season, but the hope is that travel concerns have lessened by the time late September comes around. If not, playoffs could be played in a central location (maybe Florida spring training ballparks?)
This schedule would allow the off-season to begin on a regular timeline and hopefully, the next season would be able to begin as normal, possibly even with fans back.
I do think the ideas of universal DH and a 3-game wild card round should stay in effect though. These ideas have been in conversation for a long time, and now is the perfect opportunity to give it a try and hopefully stick with it after success.
Even if they don’t follow this timeline and jump into action this quickly (which I don’t honestly expect to happen), a plan like this would be a good compromise and would be safe, as those who test positive for the virus or feel sick would not be allowed into the stadium and would be forced to self-isolate.
That’s all for this edition of the Return of Sports. I may have more entries to this column in the coming weeks if additional news about any sport comes out, and I will also be writing about my experiences watching these sports in their new formats. In the meantime, I’ll still be continuing with the NFC half of my NFL Draft Report Cards, and I’ll have my predictions for the resumption of the NBA and NHL seasons out soon.
It’s been a tough time in America. Coronavirus is still widespread and systemic racism has come to light after the murder of George Floyd. Yesterday, I declined to post in honor of Blackout Tuesday, and I feel that the Black Lives Matter movement should continue to get attention. But in a time like this, sports can provide an escape and bring people together. Even though sports aren’t back, I’ll be making the most of the sports subjects I can discuss. Today, I’ll be continuing my NFL draft report card series with the AFC West. Also coming soon, I’ll have another entry in my Return to Sports column.
I thought the Chargers brought in a pretty good draft class, filling their major positional needs over anything else. The Chargers started off by drafting Justin Herbert, who many people thought they reached for, but I think Herbert is good value at that spot, and it fills LA’s biggest need by far. They would’ve been fine without trading up for Kenneth Murray, but the rest of their picks made sense, as they drafted a new goal line RB, a couple WRs, and a safety to add secondary depth. They could’ve used some o-line and d-line help, but they did address those positions in the 2019 draft, and hopefully their draft picks from last year up their game for 2020.
Kansas City Chiefs: B
The Chiefs started off their draft very strongly, filling many top positional needs by drafting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, OLB Willie Gay Jr., OL Lucas Niang, and DB L’Jarius Sneed (who did fill a need despite the fact that Kansas City reached for him). But once their needs were filled, they reached on multiple occasions. I can understand using late round picks on a team’s personal favorite players, especially for a team like the Chiefs who didn’t have many needs and filled the ones they did have early. So I don’t mind this draft class.
Denver Broncos: B-
The Broncos addressed their depth problem at WR quickly, drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in early rounds and adding in Tyrie Cleveland in Round 7. They did fill most of their other needs as well. But they reached on McTelvin Agim and could have used more help for the d-line and secondary. They did what they needed to do (at least for the most part), but very few of their picks stood out and very few of the players Denver picked were the best possible option at that spot.
Las Vegas Raiders: B-
The Raiders filled their need at WR early as expected, and also addressed their need for DBs. But they reached on several occasions and in focusing too much on WR and DB, failed to address their biggest needs at linebacker. S Tanner Muse can play LB, but I don’t see him starting next to incoming free agents Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatowski. I expect a lot of 2 LB nickel formations this year, as the Raiders are seriously lacking in LB depth. In addition, there were better options on the board in Round 1 than Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette. The Raiders could’ve had a CeeDee Lamb-Kristian Fulton duo instead. The Raiders do leave this draft as a better, more well-rounded team, but this was not their best work.
That’s all for my AFC West draft grades, and it also concludes the AFC portion of this series. Next time, I’ll be looking at the NFC East.