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Week 1 is officially behind us and many of you are already rushing to the waiver wire to bolster your roster. Our own Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski react to the Marlon Mack and Blake Jarwin season-ending injuries.
Andy and Scott also dive into the wide receiver and quarterback positions as a few players surprised last week. Is Minshew Mania here to stay and which wide receiver could be this year’s D.J. Chark? The guys parse through all of the Week 1 anomalies to help you with your midweek fantasy transactions.
Remember to stay tuned to the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast, which will now have FIVE new episodes per week!
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Walker Buehler’s blister saga reveals a deeper truth — Dodgers aren’t invincible
As dominant was Walker Buehler was at times, as overpowering as he was for most of his start, he was a source of heart-thumping anxiety Wednesday night. And this was only one game.
If the Dodgers are to win the World Series this year, there will be three more rounds of this.
Three more rounds of wondering whether the blister on Buehler’s pitching hand will reappear.
Three more rounds of guessing whether his arm is sufficiently built up to pitch more than a handful of innings.
Three more rounds of questioning the quality of relievers behind him.
Suddenly, their rotation doesn’t look as stacked and their advantage on offense less pronounced.
The Dodgers don’t look as invincible.
In their 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of their National League wild card series, Buehler struck out eight batters.
But he also pitched only four innings.
In the last of them, he gave up a double to Daniel Vogelbach. He then served up a two-run home run to Avisail Garcia that reduced the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2.
Julio Urías replaced him at the start of the fifth inning.
Buehler, who pitched only once in the last 19 days of the regular season, departed with a pitch count of 73.
The Dodgers were carefully monitoring Buehler’s blister and pitch count, which is why they started the 26-year-old right-hander in Game 1. Clayton Kershaw could reset the bullpen in Game 2, which would permit manager Dave Roberts to make pitching changes more liberally in a potential Game 3.
There are scheduled days off between rounds, but not between games of any wild-card, division or league championship series.
Which means Buehler’s vulnerabilities could really hurt the Dodgers.
They were able to use Urias as a reliever Wednesday, but could very well need him to start in each of the next two rounds.
The more upbeat view is that the Dodgers are fortunate to have Buehler available in any capacity.
“For Walker,” Roberts said, “I would probably say it’s been his most trying season.”
While the Dodgers instructed most of their pitchers to continue throwing after they departed from spring training because of the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to shut down Buehler, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery shortly after they drafted him in 2015.
“We just made a choice as an organization because we didn’t know when we were going to get started again,” Roberts said.
The downside was that when the Dodgers reconvened for summer camp, Buehler was behind their other pitchers.
Buehler didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in his first start of the pandemic-shortened regular season.
In his longest start, he pitched six innings and threw 92 pitches in a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 21.
“Four, five starts ago, we had him in a really good spot, I thought,” Roberts said. “He was throwing his best of the season.”
Then came the blister.
Buehler pitched only three more times over the remainder of the regular season.
In his final preparation for the postseason, he was on the mound for four innings against the Oakland Athletics last week.
“I didn’t really need to see it,” Roberts said. “I just really believe in Walker.”
And this is what the Dodgers were counting on, Buehler’s appetite to be on center stage, his reputation as a big-game performer.
“It’s pretty clear and evident that there’s no lack of confidence in Walker Buehler’s game,” third baseman Justin Turner said.
Turner reminded his audience how Buehler won Game 163 in 2018, when the Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies in a tiebreaker to determine the NL West champion.
Or how Buehler started Game 7 of the NLCS that same year, when the Dodgers downed the Brewers to advance to the World Series.
“He doesn’t shy away from the moment,” catcher Austin Barnes said. “I don’t think it gets too big for him.”
The day before his postseason start, Buehler said he didn’t treat starts in the postseason any different from those in the regular season.
But he also pointed out that his playoff record wasn’t as pristine as many remembered.
His postseason career started in 2018 with a loss in Game 3 of a NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. In the next round, he dropped his first start against the Brewers.
In both instances, the Dodgers gave him a chance to pitch another day.
“I think the biggest thing is I’ve just been on some really good teams that when I failed, it hasn’t cost us,” Buehler said.
He doesn’t have that luxury anymore.
As many runs as the Dodgers are capable of scoring, as well as Kershaw has pitched this season, he has to dominate if they are to win a championship.
Buehler has the stomach to do that. The question is whether the skin on his finger is durable enough.
No. 4 Georgia hosts No. 7 Auburn in SEC tilt
Here are things to watch in Week 2 in the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 7 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia: Two of the SEC’s four top-10 teams meet in an interdivisional matchup in prime time. Both overcame challenges to win their openers, with Georgia rallying for 32 unanswered points with two passing touchdowns by backup quarterback Stetson Bennett to beat Arkansas 37-10. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart now must choose between Bennett, initial starter D’Wan Mathis and newly-cleared JT Daniels behind center. Auburn battled then-No. 23 Kentucky for three quarters before pulling away in the fourth for a 29-13 win behind two of Bo Nix’s three passing touchdowns. Georgia has won six of seven against the Tigers. No. 2 Alabama also hosts No. 13 Texas A&M in another Top-25 matchup.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Alabama QB Mac Jones vs. Texas A&M’s pass defense. Jones threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns in just under three quarters to lead the No. 2 Crimson Tide past Missouri, but faces a bigger and longer challenge beating the SEC’s best unit against the pass. The No. 13 Aggies held Vanderbilt to just 150 yards passing and registered two interceptions, including one in the fourth quarter, to preserve a narrow win. But A&M faces a tall task with Alabama’s QB and talented receivers looking to follow up a strong opening.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Kylin Hill set a Mississippi State receiving record for a running back with 158 yards in the victory at LSU, including 155 after the catch. The SEC’s No. 3 rusher last season added 34 yards on seven carries to lead a Bulldogs effort that totaled just nine on the ground. MSU just didn’t need to run that much with Hill among three receivers surpassing 100 yards on a record day.
Mississippi and first-year coach Lane Kiffin visit Kentucky as a 7-point underdog, but the Rebels are coming off a 613-yard performance against No. 3 Florida in a 51-35 loss. The Wildcats outgained Auburn and played the Tigers tough for three quarters before the game slipped away in the fourth. Ole Miss proved it can erase a deficit on its last trip to Lexington in 2017; the Rebels overcame a 27-17 second-half hole to win 38-37 on a short TD pass with five seconds remaining.
Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello introduced first-year coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense in impressive fashion as he passed for a SEC-record 623 yards and five TDs in the Bulldogs’ 44-34 upset of defending national champion and No. 6 LSU last week. The Stanford transfer broke school marks for attempts (60) and completions (36) along with compiling the 11th-best, single-game yardage total in FBS. The fifth-year senior was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
More AP college football: http://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25
How will Carabao Cup fixture play out tonight?
The tie of the round in the EFL Cup fourth round takes place at Anfield on Monday night, as Liverpool host Arsenal.
These two teams only met on Monday night in the Premier League, with the Reds running out dominant winners on that occasion.
When they met in this competition last season, however, a back-and-forth encounter ended 5-5, with Liverpool triumphing on penalties – but the Gunners won the league game at the end of last season and also won on spot-kicks in the Community Shield.
Both teams are likely to make plenty of changes from the Monday night team sheets.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the game.
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When is it?
The match kicks off at 7:45 pm on 1 October, at Anfield.
How can I watch it?
The game will be shown live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event. Subscribers can also stream the game via the Sky Go app.
If you’re not a Sky customer you can grab a NOWTV Day Pass here to watch without a subscription.
What is the team news?
Liverpool are without the injured Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Thiago Alcantara has been returned a positive coronavirus test and will miss out.
Arsenal have the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari and Shkodran Mustafi injured. Sead Kolasinac is unlikely to play as he negotiates a transfer away and Cedric Soares is a doubt.
Liverpool: Adrian; N Williams, Gomez, Van Dijk, Milner; Grujic, Jones, Wijnaldum; Shaqiri, Minamino, Jota.
Arsenal: Runarsson; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Maitland-Niles, Willock, Ceballos, Saka; Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson.
Liverpool – 16/13
Draw – 56/19
Arsenal – 13/5
Somewhat less utter dominance from the home side compared to the league match, and potentially more defensive lapses from both teams. There are usually goals when Reds and Gunners clash and last year in the cup they drew 5-5. Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but still an eventful game which Liverpool just edge. Liverpool 3-2 Arsenal
Liverpool’s performance against Arsenal was far from ‘sloppy’ – unlike the post-match analysis
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