Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wake me up when September ends

Cincinnati Reds (93-62)

9/28 @ Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m., CIN Homer Bailey (12-10) vs. PIT A.J. Burnett (16-8)
9/29 @ Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m., CIN Mike Leake (8-9) vs. PIT Kyle McPherson (0-2)
9/30 @ Pittsburgh, 1:35 p.m., CIN Johnny Cueto (19-9) vs. PIT Wandy Rodriguez (12-13)

With today's final matchup against the Brewers, the Redlegs close out the regular season home schedule at Great American Ballpark. Then it's off to Pittsburgh, the city of midseason hopes, to face the team that many predicted would win the division. The Pirates, of course, faded away about a month ago, the stellar pitching staff becoming average at best. For the Reds, it may seem like an opportunity to coast out with a division title, but there are greater things at stake here. Prior to today's game against Milwaukee, Cincinnati is just a game back of Washington for the best record in baseball, and with it, the top seed in the playoffs. By topping the Nationals, the Reds could potentially avoid meeting the hot San Francisco Giants until further down the road, and face a wild-card team whose ace likely will have been used up in the one-game playoff. It's not the end of the season by any means if the Reds can't dominate the Bucs, but gaining momentum going into the playoffs could certainly benefit Cincy.

UC Bearcats (2-0)

9/29 Home vs. Virginia Tech (3-1) (Ranked 25th in USA Today Poll), 3:30 p.m.

Possibly the premier matchup of the week for the Queen City, as both teams are on the verge of cracking into the top ranks. In Cincinnati's opening game, they routed Pittsburgh 34-10. Two weeks ago, the Hokies traveled to Heinz Field only to be defeated 35-17 by the Panthers. Does this tip the scales in favor of the Big East team? Likely close, but Nippert Stadium is definitely going to be crazy come Saturday afternoon.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)

9/30 @ Jacksonville (1-2) , 4:05 p.m., CIN

Andy Dalton could have a decent day against a sub-par Jacksonville secondary, but look for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to be the hero for the Bengals in Florida. The Jaguars have the 31st ranked rush defense in the league three weeks in, and aren't showing signs of improvement. It's safe to say that the Bengals will likely score big in this one. On the defensive side of the ball,  Blaine Gabbert hasn't proven to be a threatening NFL quarterback yet, posting only 260, 53, and 155 yards the first three games. The true threat to Cincinnati lies in the the Jacksonville backfield with RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew has, without question, been a top-five running back this season. There aren't many aerial weapons to take pressure off him, but MJD gets it done, and the Bengals rush defense has given up 99+ yards every game so far to much lesser backs.

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