It's a disturbing trend in the NFL these days.
Twice in the last decade, a team with a sub-.500 record has reached the playoffs, both in the NFC. However, there's a chance that two teams, one from each conference, could make the playoffs next month with records at .500 or under.
In the AFC South, Indianapolis & Houston are tied for first at 6-6. Both teams have had to deal with key injuries, especially at quarterback. Andrew Luck has become the 2nd QB to get hurt after taking part in the stupid DirecTV ad campaign (the other, of course, is Peyton Manning), so the Colts have gotten by with Matt Hasselbeck, despite the fact he's had injury issues as well. In the NFC Least, of course, you have the Giants, Philadelphia, & Washington all knotted up at an unsightly 5-7, with Dallas a game back at 4-8. Eeeeeew! What the Eagles have in their favor is they did something their rivals could not, and that was beat New England. Then again, the Pats have injury woes of their own, as they were missing a couple of key players (Julian Edelman & Rob Gronkowski) in the loss to Philadelphia, while their special teams were out to lunch.
Speaking of New England, they play at Houston next, and then get Tennessee for the home finale before finishing on the road vs. the Jets & Miami, and, barring a Jets loss prior to Christmas, the division could be on the line at the Meadowlands. Who'dathunk that would happen?
The Mets decided to let NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy walk, and now the door is closed on a return after the NL East champs traded pitcher Jonathan Niese to Pittsburgh for 2nd baseman Neil Walker today, this after the Yankees & Cubs spoiled their plans to sign ex-Valleycat Ben Zobrist, who left the World Series champion Kansas City Royals as a free agent and signed with the Cubs, reuniting with his manager in Tampa Bay, Joe Maddon. This became possible when Chicago sent Starlin Castro to the Yanks for pitcher Adam Warren and another player, presumably utility player Brendan Ryan.
Walker gives the Mets a veteran bat at second, and allows them to continue to develop Dilson Herrera before he is actually ready for a full-time run in Flushing. The trade also unclogs the logjam in the starting rotation, and there's word they are actually considering inviting back Bartolo Colon, who became a folk hero the last two seasons in New York, for a return engagement. Similarly, the addition of Castro solves the problem the Yanks had the last two years at the same position after letting Robinson Cano chase the money after he signed on with Jay Z's management team and landed a phat deal with Seattle. That the Bombers had previously dealt prospect Jose Pirela no longer seems to matter at this point.
Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts isn't sitting idle this offseason. A multi-sport star in high school, Betts is pursuing another dream taking part in the PBA's World Series of Bowling. Betts averaged 249 in high school, and is already putting up similar numbers in the tournament. To think that he bowled and played basketball concurrently while in high school. I've heard of athletes playing both football & soccer, but this is just off the chain awesome.
Speaking of hoops, any fears that Troy High might struggle in the Suburban Council in their first year playing basketball in Section II's toughest league have been, well, squashed. As of now, the women's team sits atop the Grey division at 3-0 after mauling Schenectady, 70-35, on Tuesday, while the boys team, after a 15 point win over Schenectady, is tied for first with long time nemesis Christian Brothers Academy. Those two teams will meet at CBA on December 18, with the rematch set as Troy's home finale on February 9. Troy will have had a rematch at Schenectady right before that, and, who knows? The Grey division could very well be on the line the 2nd week in February.
Let me just get this in on the trend of high school players finishing at prep schools rather than completing their commitment "at home", if you will. It's all about enhancing the student-athlete's chances of landing a Division 1 scholarship. Troy's Zach Radz, for example, transferred to St. Thomas More Prep, and has already signed a letter of intent to attend Sacred Heart next year. Not exactly Siena or the University at Albany. Radz, former teammate Dyaire Holt, Anthony Mack (ex-Catholic Central), & Andrew Platek (ex-Guilderland) all played on travel teams such as the Albany City Rocks during the off-season, and that gets the attention of college scouts more than it would if those same scouts cared to attend in-season games. Something tells me certain shoe companies are also involved. Would that those same sponsors would also help the schools in this region get on national television (i.e. ESPN, Fox Sports 1), rather than those networks continuing to focus on schools in the "hotbeds" (i.e. South, West, Midwest), but nope.
Do the parents have a say in this? I imagine so, especially in Mack's case, since his dad was also his coach at CCHS. Those same parents gave their blessing to the boys playing for the City Rocks or other travel teams, so they would have no issues allowing the kids to follow their hoop dreams.
However, for every LeBron James, a once in a generation phenom who went directly from high school to the pros, there are dozens of others who don't even get to be the dreaded "one-&-done" types jumping after 1 year of college. That itself is absurd, and speaks to the entourages that develop around these kids, convincing them that they're pro-ready when in most cases they may not be. The ones who go the full four years in college don't get the publicity anymore. They're becoming a minority.