NFL Week 4 Analysis and College Football Storylines with Austin Gayle of PFF and Sean Sullivan of Move The Sticks (Ep. 211)

Chase Thomas is joined by PFF's Austin Gayle to talk about the state of the Denver Broncos after falling to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who is the better team: Ravens or Bengals, the impressive debut of Josh Rosen in Arizona and why Amari Cooper is fine in Oakland (1:00).

Then, NFL Media's Move The Sticks' producer Sean Sullivan jumps on the pod to talk about Tennessee covering against Georgia, if Kentucky can beat Texas A&M on the road, whether or not Brian Kelly is now underrated, Clemson guys going off on the transfer of Kelly Bryant, and West Virginia's brutal path to the CFB playoff (30:00). 

That Just Happened College Football Week 5 and Week 6 Preview With Jordan DeArmon (Ep. 210)

Chase Thomas is joined by Jordan DeArmon to talk about Cole McDonald's insane day for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, another perfect day for Heisman frontrunner Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama, Auburn continuing to struggle on offense, Ian Book and Notre Dame, Larry Fedora's chances of keeping his job at UNC, Arizona State's insane weapons on offense, Frank Beamer getting a statue at Virginia Tech and preview the big game in Week 6 of the college football season.

Falcons vs. Bengals: The Tyler Boyd Game

It feels like we’ve been talking about when Tyler Boyd was going to break out for thirteen years now. Without looking it up, I would guess the Bengals drafted him out of Pittsburgh around the same time Dion Lewis was on campus. I’d probably be wrong, no, I am sure of it, but I am also sure that Tyler Boyd has arrived and killed the Falcons in the process. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve loved Theoretical Tyler Boyd ever since he came into the NFL -- another Julian Edelman, Cole Beasley, etc. kind of wideout who just had a knack for crushing teams when their quarterback checks down and finds them just in the right spot for a back-breaking first down.

In Boyd’s case, this did not happen until the second half, when the Bengals lost their superstar tight end to injury once again in brutal fashion. (This is not me trying to tease you to go watch the video. Please do not watch the video. It is *that* bad.) The Bengals lost their unicorn wide-receiver-tight-end-or-whatever-he-is hybrid early in the third, so Boyd decided it was time for the guy who was two years away from being two years away to ensure the Falcons were 1-3 through four weeks of action.

Mission accomplished, asshole.

For the rest of the afternoon, the Bengals’ human safety valve reeled in one huge third-down catch after another to keep the Bengals’ offense on the field. Rarely, if ever, did you hear or see AJ Green’s name on the broadcast. (Yes, the former UGA star nabbed the game-winning touchdown, but outside of that, his impact didn’t feel as demoralizing as the sound of “Dalton finds Boyd for a thirteen-yard reception and another Cincy first down.) While Mohamed Sanu Sr. pulverized the Bengals’ secondary on big third downs, Boyd destroyed the Falcons’ secondary whenever Dalton was getting pressured and needed to find his reliable safety net. Granted, Dalton wasn’t running for his life on every down like Deshaun Watson is accustomed to in Houston -- this is where I mention Takk McKinley in the column because his impact was felt as the former UCLA star added a big-time sack on third down in the 3rd quarter, another sack that almost resulted in a fumble, and, for the most part, made Falcon fans forget about the other edge rusher on the team for the majority of the afternoon -- but when he was and after he lost Eifert, he made damn sure he was going to find Tyler effing Boyd.

This is the new normal for the Atlanta Falcons, though. If they don’t have the ball last, they’re probably going to lose. (Serious question: Did you notice the existence of Jalen Richards in this game? Damontae Kazee had the huge interception, Bryan Poole had the awful targeting play, Robert Alford had a stellar pass breakup in the endzone against Green, and Desmond Trufant looked tired, man, but did you ever see Richards? Outside of Duke Riley’s hit-stick moment late in third quarter, did you notice him? You didn’t notice a lot of guys because you noticed Tyler Boyd and Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert and AJ Green and everybody on that Cincinnati offense lighting Dan Quinn’s defense on fire. This will continue because it has to continue. The Falcons figured out how to score in the red zone again -- 10 for their last 10 at one point in this game -- but they also figured out just how screwed this team is on defense. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback. Andy Dalton is not *this* good of a quarterback. Hello, Nick Bosa!

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • That third quarter was wild. After a blazing first half with zero punts, the third had 93 penalties, a blocked punt, a Kazee interception and so much more.

  • Big Takk McKinley game. Beasley Jr. did have a nice strip sack, too. Progress?

  • Ryan hitting Paulsen for that touchdown in the first half was discombobulating.

  • Calvin Ridley really likes posing as close as possible to the on-field videographers on his touchdown-grabs. I’ll allow it.

  • No Joe Mixon, no Eifert, no pass-protection issues, no problem.

  • Another big Julio day.

  • Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith are perfectly fine as a one-two punch. Are we sure the team needs Devonta Freeman?

  • Was that Christian effing Hackenberg on the sidelines for the Bengals?

  • Bill Lazor or Steve Sarkisian for Biggest Surprise OC Work of the year?

  • Bengals were averaging 10.3 yards per play at one point this game. Eric Reid, Eric Schmeid, right? RIGHT?

  • Big what-if on that missed touchdown in the back of the endzone for Hooper. Ryan places that ball better and the game is over.

  • Boyd had two fourth-down conversions on that game-winning drive. Man.

Gophers, MLB, NBA and WWE With Andy Greder, Tyler Batiste, Noah Clark and Nick Stellini (Ep. 209)

Chase Thomas is joined by the Pioneer Press' Andy Greder to talk about Year 2 of PJ Fleck in Minnesota, the development of Zack Annexstad, the youth movement for the Golden Gophers, and the drive to win six games this season in the Big 10 (3:00). Then, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tyler Batiste jumps on the pod to talk about Smackdown Live killing it, Randy Orton going back to his roots as a heel, the Miz vs. Daniel Bryan feud, and what to make of Dean Ambrose's status in The Shield (18:00). Then, Noah Clarke comes on the pod to talk about Jimmy Butler wanting to go to the Miami Heat, if there is a better option for Butler out there, Kyrie Irving wanting to stay in Boston, and Elton Brand getting the Sixers' general manager job (58:00). Lastly, The Athletic's Nick Stellini jumps on the pod to talk about the Braves winning the NL East, the match-up between the Yankees and the Athletics, their Cy Young and MVP picks, the collapse of the Phillies, and the Giants firing Bobby Evans (85:00). 

That Just Happened College Football Week 4 With Jordan DeArmon (Ep. 207)

Chase Thomas is joined by Jordan DeArmon to talk about Virginia Tech getting upset by Old Dominion, the Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury revival in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, what to make of Georgia surviving on the road against Missouri, the problem with Auburn's offense this season, Bobby Petrino's job status with Louisville, Trevor Lawerence being named the starter at Clemson, and preview week 5 of the college football season. 

NBA Best/Worst Offseasons, Maple Leafs Hype, and State of the Tigers With Noah Clark, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic Toronto and Emily Waldon of The Athletic Detroit (Ep. 206)

Chase Thomas is joined by The Athletic's Scott Wheeler to talk about the 2018 Toronto Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas's vision, the impact of John Tavares, and what is going on with William Nylander (4:00). Then Chase's buddy Noah Clark comes on the pod to talk about why the Raptors and Lakers won the 2018 NBA offseason and teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and others did not (15:00). Later, The Athletic's Emily Waldon joins the podcast to talk about the rough 2018 season for the Detroit Tigers, what to make of their farm system, the job Al Avila has done thus far as GM, the excitement surrounding Daz Cameron and other MLB prospects to watch over the next couple of seasons (55:00).

Dolphins On Fire, Falcons Injury Bug, and Josh Gordon Traded to the Patriots With Travis Wingfield of Locked On Dolphins and Jason Butt of The Athletic (Ep. 205)

Chase Thomas is joined by Locked On Dolphins' Travis Wingfield to talk about Miami starting 2-0, the importance of Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, Adam Gase figuring it in Year 3, a healthy Ryan Tannehill, the dynamic safety duo in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones and if this team can win 10 games in 2018 (4:00). Then, The Athletic's Jason Butt to talk about the Atlanta Falcons' losing Andy Levitre, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, the importance of Ricardo Allen, Duke Riley's inconsistent play, Devonta Freeman's future with the team, the Browns trading Josh Gordon to the Patriots, LeVeon Bell's contract dispute with the Steelers, and much more (34:00).

WWE Monday Night Raw: The Crown Jewel Is Revealed

Roman Reigns is still the WWE Universal champion; Ronda Rousey is still the WWE Raw women’s champion; Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler are still the Raw Tag Team champions; Braun Strowman is still a loser; Baron Corbin is still the best general manager on Raw in years; Brock Lesnar is still the crown jewel of the WWE.

So not much has changed on the red brand following Hell In A Cell on Sunday night. Perhaps that’s why this week’s episode of Raw felt like a rerun. One member of the Shield faced one member of the Evil Heels; Elias found himself sparring with Bobby Lashley again; Ronda Rousey was in the building but didn’t have an actual match; Dana Brooke lost a singles match; the show even kicked off with Michael Cole awkwardly welcoming us all to the show followed by the sound of Roman Reigns’ entrance music.

There was Lio Rush, though, which was very different. On a show that dragged, featured a Chad Gable vs. Viktor match, and just didn’t have a lot to offer outside of playing the classic hits, Rush stood out. He was given time, he was comfortable on the mic, he had the best interaction on the show with Elias, and may actually be the best thing that has happened to Lashley since returning to the WWE. The company has something with Rush, but they also have to be careful. As fun as it was to see the 23-year-old phenom navigate traffic in the form of Kevin Owens and Elias, Rush is too talented in the ring and on the mic to fall into the comedy-act zone. As should be the case for all young, talented wrestlers coming up from NXT or 205 Live, there has to be effective quality control to protect these guys long-term.

Outside of the Rush revelation, it was clear what this show was about: promote some more WWE Network specials. Less than 24 hours prior, the WWE put on a co-branded special, but within the first thirty minutes of last night’s episode, the company was already pushing both the Crown Jewel special in Saudi Arabia, headlined by Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal title, along with the Superstar Show-Down special, headlined by Triple H vs. The Undertaker, as the WWE content machine keeps on churning. Lesnar returned in the main event of the previous night’s show, spoiling Strowman’s cash-in, and it just didn’t feel like a big deal because of all the different things going on. (It didn’t help Lesnar didn’t make an appearance, as a Strowman and Lesnar brawl to open this show would have made a lot of sense and served both men well. Paul Heyman is great, sure, but Strowman just ending the opening promo by angrily walking after Heyman with no follow-up was an abject failure.)

***

Here are three other takeaways I had from this week’s episode.

  1. Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler were able to get the fans into another Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler match in 2018. This was no easy feat, but in ten minutes or so, the two superb wrestlers were able to galvanize a crowd that had fallen asleep after being treated with a Bayley vs. Dana Brooke match and an Authors of Pain squash. Fans really did get out of their chairs for a match that has happened at least 63 times since June 1. At least. To be clear, this is neither of the two’s fault, but the finish was solid, outside of Michael Cole yelling “Stomp!”, and now we can finally, please, for the love of God, move on from Ziggler vs. Rollins singles matches. Actually, what if they were to do a 90-minute Iron Man match at Survivor Series? Just picture it. I’m so sorry.

  2. Why do I care about The Undertaker vs. Triple H in 2018 in a non-WrestleMania capacity? The Undertaker was fine here, his shots at Corporate Hunter were fine, but this felt like watching Undertaker dance with John Cena at WrestleMania 34 for eight minutes. This entire feud, from Taker to Shawn Michaels to Triple H all feels like the creative team stumbled onto some member berries and decided to build a special around it. (Member The Undertaker?) Kind of like Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’m Telling You For The Last Time” special in the late ‘90s, we know this is not the last time fans are going to see Triple H and the Undertaker nothing is permanent and the marketing doesn’t matter. “Last time ever!” Sure.

  3. Well, Ronda Rousey almost competed in a match on Monday Night Raw. Sure, Rousey’s character not understanding the complexities involved in an open-challenge match wasn’t great, but this was still a step in the right direction. Fans want to see Rousey more often. They want to see her sling people over her shoulder and try and snap people’s arms. It’s never not entertaining, and if Rousey is going to be at every episode of Raw, you have to use her more. We may not have gotten to see a full Ruby Riott versus Rousey match, but the spear from the former alone showed this is definitely that should happen sooner rather than later. (Sidebar: It was nice of the Riott Squad to progress from graffiti and paper-tossing to attacking a member of the roster this week.)

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • “Went through hell, excuse the pun,” - Michael Cole, Embarrassing Dad.

  • Dean Ambrose going after McIntyre’s leg all match was a nice touch.

  • “How do open challenges work?” - Ronda Rousey.

  • Chad Gable entrance-bombing Bobby Roode is Actually Good.

  • The Ascension’s Viktor was rocking some very baggy tights this week. Somebody get this man a tailor!

  • Not a good start for Dana Brooke’s Post-Titus Worldwide run.

  • “He owns 26 Toyota Camrys.” - Corey Graves on Titus O’Neil.

  • “This is still Monday Night Rollins.” - Seth Rollins, confused quasi-main eventer.

  • Why hasn’t Drake Maverick cut a promo for AOP yet?

  • “I don’t know why you booked yourself in a Universal title match tonight?” asked Braun Strowman.

  • “Whose kid is this?” - Elias.

  • Somebody please save Kevin Owens.

That Just Happened College Football Week 3 With Jordan DeArmon (Ep. 204)

Chase Thomas is joined by longtime friend Jordan DeArmon to talk about Notre Dame surviving Vanderbilt at home, Alabama demolishing Ole Miss on the road, how Auburn lost to LSU again, why CFB fans should be watching Cole McDonald and Hawaii, their own top-10 rankings heading into Week 4, the Jawon Pass era ending in Louisville, and preview the five biggest games in Week 4 of the college football season. 

WWE Hell In A Cell Stock Report: The Cash-In Is Near

Has it already been two weeks since the last WWE Network special? No, it’s been a smidge longer than two weeks since the last weekend professional wrestling fans had to spend ten-plus hours consuming the WWE product. Fear not, humans who would rather spend their Sunday evenings not trying to juggle watching Sunday Night Football on NBC and the latest WWE Network special as the next standard special is Survivor Series, which isn’t happening until November 18. Rejoice!

Still, there is a special happening on Sunday evening, one of the three specials the network is putting out over a month-ish span. (The other specials being Evolution and Superstar Show-Down, of course. Serious question: Has there been a special with as cringe-worthy of a name as “Superstar Show-Down” in the WWE? Oh, right, Fastlane. What I’m saying is let’s bring back No Mercy and Unforgiven. Please?) The card is light on the number of matches, but it is heavy on the number of blood-feud matches. Very Much A Heel Braun Strowman challenges Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal championship; Very Much A I Don’t Really Know Becky Lynch challenges Charlotte Flair for the WWE Smackdown Women’s championship; Best Heel Samoa Joe challenges AJ Styles for the WWE championship; Brie Bella also tries to wrestle again. Outside of Strowman vs. Reigns and Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss, the build-up to the vast majority of these matches have clicked. Mission accomplished?

Now, let’s get into some stock reports ahead of tomorrow night’s show.

***

Trending Up or Down: Braun Strowman

So this is it for Strowman, right? Or, at the very least, the beginning of the end for Strowman as a character who the company could still theoretically build around. It’s not that I don’t like Strowman, per se, but I have never bought into the “Braun Strowman could definitely be The Guy” argument that fans and analysts have been making for the last year or so. He lost his last blood feud with Reigns a summer ago, he lost a title match to Brock Lesnar that ended after the former delivered just one F-5 to Mr. Get These Hands, and spent this past summer in Character Rehabilitation camp, running roughshod through the main-event scene on Monday Night Raw -- Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, etc. -- only for the company to throw it all away by saddling him with the dredded “you people” rhetoric and an uninspiring heel turn. All signs point to a loss to the Big Dog here and a boxing match against Conor McGregor at WrestleMania 35.

Final Verdict: Down.

Trending Up or Down: Becky Lynch

If you’ve been reading the wrestling news this week, you may have seen that there is talk of a double-turn taking place in the Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair Smackdown Women’s championship match at Hell In A Cell -- this would be a very good idea. There will always be something naturally appealing about Lynch, so long as she’s not doing the “Becky Balboa” thing, and there will be always be something naturally about Flair. The latter, as my friend Maxwell Baumbach pointed out on this week’s episode of RBR Wrestling, there is a Triple H-ness to Flair, which maybe shouldn’t come as a surprise considering who her father associated with. Yes, she is a very talented wrestler, but she also feels like an inevitable champion, someone who the fans know will always be in the title picture and who will always be in the company’s good graces -- is that not who Triple H was to a tee? That’s what makes this blood feud over the championship work between these two -- fans know Lynch is just as talented if not more so than Flair, yet has never and may never get her opportunity to carry the brand for reasons out of her control. The underutilized will always have the support of the fans, while the overexposed will never have the support of the fans.

Final Verdict: Up.

Trending Up or Down: Samoa Joe

The Samoan Submission Machine really, really wants to put WWE champion AJ Styles to sleep on Sunday night. Since the non-finish in their WWE championship match at SummerSlam, Joe has unearthed a new passion project: Homewrecking. Joe may never get his own reality show on HGTV, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t shown over the past month that you just can’t look away when the man is doing what he loves, which, remember, is homewrecking. At this point in his feud with Styles, it’s less about the championship and more about ruining the champ’s life. But, he needs to win. Since moving to Smackdown Live, Joe has done more talking than winning. He lost to Reigns in a snoozefest of a main event to close out Backlash, and if he comes up short against Styles again here, he’ll be right where Shinsuke Nakamura was just a year ago -- all the promise and intrigue in the world, but just another guy who lost when it mattered. Did I mention Joe really needs to be Styles? Because he does and I can’t stress that enough. (See: Ciampa, NXT Champion.)

Trending Up or Down: Ronda Rousey

Does it feel like the WWE Raw Women’s Champion is a big part of Monday Night Raw? It doesn’t, right? Sure, she’s around, but does her rematch with Bliss feel like a big deal? It doesn’t, right? This is a problem, as Rousey is too good and too entertaining to head into WWE Network specials with this little momentum. Part of it, of course, is that nobody believes she is dropping the championship to Bliss here, but that’s not everything at play here. Right now, Raw is built around The Shield vs. Generic Heel Faction, which is fine, but the company could easily find ways to build it more around Rousey. If the Baddest Woman On The Planet is not working the Brock Lesnar schedule, why would you not go above-and-beyond in utilizing one of the three actual “superstars” on the roster? (The other two being John Cena and Lesnar. The rest are professional wrestlers, an important distinction.) People really enjoy watching Rousey toss other wrestlers around like ragdolls. Do that more. Let Rousey interact with other members of the Raw roster on-screen besides Natalya. Let Rousey devour Bliss on Sunday, and, for all that is holy, inject her into a compelling program ahead of Evolution.

Final Verdict: Even


Chase Thomas is a sportswriter based out of Atlanta and the host of “The Chase Thomas Podcast”. You can email him at chasethomas0418[at]gmail.com.

Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler Rumors, Kevin Love In Cleveland, and Devin Booker's Injury With Tom Westerholm of MassLive (Ep. 203)

Chase Thomas is joined by MassLive's Tom Westerholm to talk about the latest Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler rumors in Boston, Kevin Love taking a leadership role in Cleveland, Devin Booker's hand injury, the Suns still not having a point guard, who has a better future between the Sixers and the Celtics and the Luka Doncic hype in Dallas. 

NFL, MLS, and MLB With Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports Dylan Butler and Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated (Ep. 202)

Chase Thomas is joined by CBS Sports' Sean Wagner-McGough to talk about the Aaron Rodgers comeback against the Bears, the Titans injury problems and Marcus Mariota, the Bucs surprising the Saints, the Lions being the least interesting team in the league and preview Week 2 of the NFL (4:00). Then, MLS writer Dylan Butler comes on the pod to talk about Atlanta United losing their manager, Real Salt Lake catching fire as of late, Clint Dempsey's retirement, and the Columbus Crew moving to Austin (75:00). Lastly, SI's Jon Tayler comes on the pod to talk about the Mets not calling up Peter Alonso, the Rockies leading the NL West, and the Phillies falling up apart down the stretch (150:00). 

That Just Happened College Football Week 2 With Jordan DeArmon (Ep. 201)

Chase Thomas is joined by Jordan Dearmon to talk about Alabama and Ohio State's early-season dominance with Haskins and Tua, what to make of Georgia blowing out South Carolina, Kentucky upsetting Florida, Iowa State looking to make it back-to-back wins versus Oklahoma, Kevin Sumlin struggling at Arizona, if Vanderbilt can win in South Bend, Will Grier vs. Ryan Finley, Kansas getting a road win, and what games they'll be watching in Week 3. 

NBA, WWE, and MLB With Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Paul Griffin of RBR Wrestling and Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports (Ep. 200)

Chase Thomas is joined by The Athletic's Jovan Buha to talk about the Clippers matching Ty Wallace's contract with the Pelicans, potential Milos Teodosic trades, the Suns and Rockets trade that included Ryan Anderson and Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight, and the Minnesota Timberwolves going after Luol Deng and Joakim Noah (4:00). Then, RBR Wrestling's Paul Griffin comes on the pod to talk about The Elite's ALL IN PPV, Pentagon Jr. and Felix coming to NXT, where Rey Mysterio fits on the main roster, what to make of the Braun Strowman heel turn and his new faction, and who AJ Styles should drop the WWE title to (52:00). Then, Yahoo Sports' MLB Writer Chris Cwik comes on the pod to talk about Angels' superstar Shoehei Otani needing Tommy John surgery, what Billy Eppler should do this winter, Ryan Howard officially retiring, the Padres calling up Francisco Mejía, and the Blue Jays trading Josh Donaldson to the Indians (145:00).

NFL Week 1 Extravaganza With Matt Hamilton of Good Morning Football, Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports and Matt Ufford (Ep. 199)

Chase Thomas is joined by Good Morning Football's Matt Hamilton to talk about producing the NFL Network show, the Chicago Bears going all-in by trading for Khalil Mack, the Detroit Lions' questions in their pass-rush, and who is the better Super Bowl contender between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings (4:00). Then, CBS Sports' Sean Wagner-McGough to talk about why Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie, the LeVeon Bell holdout with the Steelers, the Jets' chances at an AFC Wild Card, and whether or not the Falcons can get back to the Super Bowl in Year of Steve Sarkisian (40:00). Lastly, NFL writer Matt Ufford comes on the pod to talk about his new gig, the Seahawks getting Earl Thomas back, the questions surrounding the 49ers, why the Cardinals could surprise and what makes the Rams so special in 2018 (70:00). 

WWE Raw: Two #Heels and a Monster

Braun Strowman is mad; Braun Strowman is annoyed; Braun Strowman wants revenge; Braun Strowman wants the WWE Universal title. In the Monster Among Men’s mind, that means finding capable reinforcements to combat the newly reformed Shield with. After his Money in the Bank cash-in moment was thwarted on Monday Night Raw just a few weeks prior by Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, Strowman turned heel. To explain his head-scratching decision to join forces with McIntyre and Ziggler, Strowman went with the played-out “You People” promo that is as lazy as it is boring. In Strowman’s mind, he had no choice but to enlist the two goons, or goofs if you recall how they fared in that No. 1 contender battle royal for the Raw Tag Team titles a few months back, to quiet the hounds until he, again, claims what’s rightfully his -- the Universal title.

In this opening promo, fans cheered at certain moments during Strowman’s monologue and booed at others. In a way, you could make the case that the story they’re trying to tell with Strowman is similar to the story they’re trying to tell with Becky Lynch on Smackdown Live. The general manager on Smackdown Live didn’t like the champion at the time, Carmella, just like the general manager on Raw didn’t like the champion at the time, Brock Lesnar, and welcomed a change. Lynch went on an unexpected winning streak, she was universally adored by the WWE Universe, and it seemed for much of the summer that the wind was blowing in the direction of a Lynch title run and an opportunity to prove she can be The Girl. Strowman, too, mauled his way through Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Jinder Mahal and more over the summer and, like Lynch, had the support of the WWE Universe and with a victory at the Money in the Bank WWE Network special, looked primed for a Universal title run and an opportunity to prove he can be The Guy. Of course, Charlotte Flair and the Shield got in the way, so neither got what they wanted and reacted accordingly.

The problem?

Lynch didn’t follow-up her “turn” at SummerSlam by saddling up with whatever is left of Absolution on Smackdown Live. Sure, she did have her “you people” promo because we can’t have nice things, but the feud is still strictly between Lynch and Flair. Had Strowman hadn’t aligned himself with anyone and focused strictly on beating up the supposed-babyface champion Roman Reigns, this could story could still mirror the one on Smackdown Live. When Strowman talks about beating up the Big Dog, eschews his tired catchphrases, or says anything other than lazy heel-speak, the crowd still cheers. Now, the crowd doesn’t what to do because they still care about Strowman but couldn’t care less about McIntyre and Ziggler.

The Shield vs. Strowman alone is compelling, especially when you consider how Strowman has been booked over the summer, that the only way to defeat this gigantic figure is to play the numbers game, which the trio did a few weeks ago on Raw. Strowman is right in his assertion that the reason Reigns is still champion because of outside interference, but Strowman also cashed in his contract prior to enlisting the help of Ziggler and McIntyre, which would have, checks notes, evened the odds if Strowman were to try and cash-in on Reigns after, say, a tag-team match in the main event on an episode of Raw. Instead of Strowman vs. the Shield, we’re getting Three Heels vs. The Shield, which doesn’t work.

It’s not even McIntyre or Ziggler’s fault, as we know both can bring it on the mic and bring it in the ring -- fans just don’t care. Pairing Strowman with them hasn’t elevated Ziggler and McIntyre, it has dragged Strowman down with Ziggler and McIntyre. This episode was strictly about making fans give a shit about McIntyre and Ziggler and doing their best to have you believe there is any chance in -- I’m very sorry about this -- hell that Strowman is beating Reigns at the upcoming WWE Network special. Neither happened. Sure, the trio looked good in the opening promo, the trio emasculating Acting GM Baron Corbin was fine, and their attack on the Revival clicked -- but then they had a competitive, long match with the B-Team. If you want to build this fall’s program on Raw around the Shield and Three Heels, that’s fine, but you can’t also have the Not Ambrose Or Rollins guys have 15-minute matches with two Matt Saracen’s on Raw. If McIntyre and Ziggler had been running roughshod over the Raw tag-team division similar to the way Strowman was running roughshod over the Raw main-event scene for the last few months, this would be a hot feud. Instead, it’s as cold as Alexa Bliss’s words for her hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

***

Here are three other major takeaways I had for this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw.

  1. What is there to say about the Bella Twins return? Obviously, Brie Bella was, well, a tad rusty in the in-ring department. Although, the less athletic Bella always seemed to wrestle like Blake Bortles plays like quarterback -- you just have to hold your breath, cover your eyes, and hope for the best. Thankfully, Nikki Bella was also in this match with the Riott Squad, who hasn’t missed a beat. Nikki picked up the win for the Bella Twins via a Rack Attack 2.0. Later in the night, the Bella Twins were seen backstage offering their services to the still underutilized WWE Raw Women’s champion Ronda Rousey in what came across as very disingenuous and heelish. The highlight of the Bella Twins’ return, though, was in-ring announcer JoJo’s 1,500-word opus on the Bellas before their match with the Riott Squad. Yes, the latter was given the “already in the ring” treatment, but it was for a good cause -- a very long ad read for the Bella Twins.

  2. Is this the best they could come up with for Kevin Owens? On one hand, it’s nice that the WWE has finally figured out what most fans have known for a long time -- Jinder Mahal should always be a comedy jobber and Bobby Lashley is low-key funny. On the other hand, inserting Kevin Owens into this experiment is not a good thing. Last week, we saw Toronto lose their shit for Owens in a fantastic Intercontinental title match with Seth Rollins, only for the former to lose, even after delivering a beautiful stunner, no less, and then just quit. I’ve already written extensively on why it made sense for his character to be this frustrated and to just say “fuck it” and walk away. It doesn’t make sense for Owens to return a week later, attack Lashley and Mahal and that be the end of that. It wasn’t treated as a big deal, and it certainly looks as though Owens is now being used as the latest heel to try and get fans to muster up some feels for Bobby Lashley. The Kevin Owens “I Quit” storyline wasn’t about Kevin Owens at all, it was about Bobby Lashley. Shame.

  3. What even is this Shawn Michaels and Undertaker and Triple H stuff? What year are we in? Why is this happening again? Why are they teasing one more match for the Heartbreak Kid? Sure, this promo between Michaels and Taker was far better than it had any business being, but didn’t we already do this? Didn’t Michaels already stick up for his friend in front of the Deadman? Wasn’t there an end of an era a few years back? Didn’t these three WWE legends dominate WrestleMania storylines for almost half a decade? The WWE trying to juggle the promotion of both the Hell In A Cell special and the Super Show-Down simultaneously was always going to end this way, but they were always going to make a lot of money either way. It’s like the old adage goes, “content over quality.”

Lifted from the Legal Pad:

  • “Pretty Humorous,” from Michael Cole is a new cringe-worthy line from Raw’s play-by-play announcer.

  • “Just look at us” - Drew McIntyre. If only it were that simple, Drew.

  • Liv Morgan doing the “You Can’t See Me” gesture at Nikki was a nice touch. She’s not technically sound, but she’s got something.

  • My final verdict on the Brie Bella Suicide Dive Conundrum: Sarah Logan was late on the first one, but it was all Brie the second time.

  • “Have you seen the night I’ve been having?” - Baron Corbin, Good GM.

  • Why was Finn Balor smiling at Corbin backstage? He should have been pissed at what transpired last week.

  • Are we sure Jason Jordan is ever getting cleared?

  • Release Bobby Roode.

  • Giving promo time before matches is a good thing. The Ascension was better off for it.

  • “Hi, Zombies.” - Alexa Bliss.

  • Would a Bliss and Elias romance angle be the worst thing? Asking for a friend.

  • Rousey should be throwing someone around every single week.

  • Drake Maverick in Authors of Pain gear is wild and I think I’m here for it. Does this make Maverick the Eric Young of AOP?

  • They’re trying to get the “my man” line over for Lashley. Not great, Bob.

  • Dana Brooke and Ember Moon took on Sasha Banks and Bayley.

Dan Wolken on CFB Week 1, Texas and Michigan Disappointing, and Alabama's Two Quarterbacks (Ep. 198)

Chase Thomas is joined by USA Today's Dan Wolken to talk about Auburn taking down Washington in Atlanta, Texas disappointing against Maryland to start the season again, the Alabama QB controversy with Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, Jim Harbaugh needing a signature win at Michigan and what to expect out of Texas A&M vs. Clemson in Week 2 (4:00). 

Nobody Asked Mailbag: Teddy Bridgewater Finally Got Traded

Teddy Bridgewater is once again on the move, and I couldn’t be happier. My adoration for the former Louisville star goes back years now, and I have the receipts to prove it, and it almost feels like we’re still not talking enough about how insane it is that this guy is playing football again after the kind of injury he suffered prior to the 2016 NFL season. He literally tore everything in his knee, and as his doctor, Dan Cooper, pointed out in an ESPN piece, “You’ve torn every single thing in your knee and it’s hanging on by one ligament like a hinge.” In conclusion: shit was bad.

Teddy Bridgewater should probably not be playing football right now. It’s insane that Teddy Bridgewater is playing football right now. It’s even more insane that Teddy Bridgewater is playing football at an above-average level and a team, in 2018, gave up a third-round pick to maybe or possibly or definitely bring him in as their quarterback of the future. The New Orleans Saints’ brass of Sean Payton, Jeff Ireland and Mickey Loomis surrendered a valuable future pick to hitch their wagon to Teddy Bridgewater in 2018. Sometimes, things are good.

So what do I make of the Jets trading Bridgewater and throwing the No. 3 overall pick and youngest starting quarterback to start an NFL game since 1970 into the fire right away? Outside of it being a very bold strategy, Cotton, it felt weirdly inevitable. Since the Jets’ front office brought back Josh McCown, signed Teddy Bridgewater and drafted Sam Darnold this felt like their plan. Play a lot of Bridgewater in the preseason, pray to the Football Gods he looks good and can fetch a good pick, and go into Week 1 with the rookie under-center and the 37-year veteran in his ear. If Darnold turns out to be a franchise quarterback, this was a homerun offseason for the Jets, if not, well, the Jets are still the Jets, I suppose.

But it should be noted they did Bridgewater a solid here. Sure, they didn’t trade him to a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he would probably start right away, but they did trade him to a team with a top-5 head coach, a future Hall-Of-Famer in Drew Brees to sit and learn from, and an offensive situation where, if all goes well, he could be lighting up the Superdome with Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and probably Ben Watson because if this guy hasn’t retired yet, are we really sure he’s ever actually going to? I wouldn’t rule out Payton convincing him to play for another 13 years.

As clairvoyant as I like to think I am at times, I don’t know how it is going to work out for Bridgewater in New Orleans. Maybe Brees plays another couple of seasons and Teddy is moved again. Maybe Father Time strikes this season for Brees and we see Bridgewater in action in Week 7 to save the Saints’ season. I don’t know how this is going to unfold, but I do know it’s still one of the best sports stories of the year and, man, we really need stuff like this these days.

***

Now, let’s get into this week’s Nobody Asked Mailbag where, as always, nobody emailed me these questions, I just wrote them myself. If you’d like to email me, though, you can at chasethomaspodcast@gmail.com. Talk soon.

Mailbag Question No. 1: “What do you make of the Suns and Rockets trade?”

CT: Initially, it felt like a steal for the Rockets. For months and months, the conversation surrounding Ryan Anderson and his contract was that it was immovable. Well, nobody factored in taking on Marquese Chriss into the equation. I could say I watched a lot of Phoenix Suns games over the past two seasons, but that would be a lie. ( As the president of the Josh Jackson Could Be A Two-Way Star Fan Club, I did keep up with the former Kansas star down the stretch last season for the hopeless Suns.) Still, could Chriss be that bad that GM Ryan McDonough was willing to take on Anderson’s contract just to have a competent, score-first power forward to play next to DeAndre Ayton for a season or two while the team scores 114 every night but surrenders 162? (Seriously, this team doesn’t have a point guard right now, and, outside of Jackson, it looks as though Anderson, Ayton, and Devin Booker will all play major minutes for the Suns this season. NBA League Pass Must-Watch team? Fuck yeah. A team that has any chance to be better than 29th in defensive efficiency this season? Absolutely not. Strap in, Phoenix fans!)

After losing Trevor Ariza, to the Suns no less, and Luc Richard Mbah Moute in the same offseason, GM Daryl Morey has elected to go back to his throw darts at the dartboard strategy. He has taken a flier on Carmelo Anthony, he signed Michael Carter-Williams in 2018, he signed Bruno Caboclo, and now he has brought in Brandon Knight and Chriss as his latest Who Fucking Knows guys. Chriss and Knight probably won’t work out, but Houston moved Anderson’s contract and that is enough for me to give Houston the nod here as the winners of the deal.

Mailbag Question No. 2: Any thoughts on David West retiring?

CT: Ring-chasing works, folks.

Mailbag Question No. 3: The Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen -- does this matter?

CT: Hmmm. Do we know if Aaron Judge is going to be 100 percent again this season? If not, then it’s certainly possible he moves the needle a tad. As an insane sports person, my first reaction when I saw this trade was official was, “How will this effect Aaron Hicks’ role on the team?” and I’m not proud of it. Hicks has been huge for the Yankees this season, though, posting a 4.1 WAR and a WRC+ just a few points down from Giancarlo Stanton. My biggest questions is this: can McCutchen play first? Can Brandon Belt transfer to the Yankees for the rest of the season? McCutchen has played in 128 games this season, so, at the very least, the Yankees are getting another guy who has been able to stay healthy this season.

Last point: The Yankees are locked into the AL Wild Card game, right? Is it the best idea to bring on a guy who has lost his last two wild-card games? Who’s to say?

Mailbag Question No. 4: Jeff Janis got cut by the Browns. Pour one out?

CT: Absofuckinglutely. I still remember exactly where I was when Jeff Janis was on the receiving end of two insane Aaron Rodgers Is About To Do This Shit Himself moments in Arizona. I was in my parents’ living room, watching the game with my mom, and remember feeling as though Rodgers could pull off a 4th-and-20 situation late in the fourth quarter from the back of his own end zone. He scrambled, rolled out to the left side, and found Janis near the fifty-yard line to save the Packers’ season. Then, Rodgers found Janis again, this time, in the end zone to send the NFC Playoff game into overtime where the Packers would ultimately win. Jordy Nelson 2.0 Jeff Janis was not. He’ll always have Glendale, though.

Throwback Thursday: 1999 Lakers vs. Rockets Recap

Was this the night where the Kobe and Shaq era really took flight? If you watched game 1 of the 1998-99 NBA season between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, you might think so. Coming into this game, the Lakers were without Robert Horry, his wife was giving birth, and Rick Fox, who was dealing with bone spurs in his foot, so Kobe Bryant got the start at the small-forward spot next to Eddie Jones with Corie Blount next to Shaquille O’Neal at the power-forward spot. The star power in this game was kind of insane with Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Kobe, Shaq and the rookie sensation Michael Dickerson! Look, if you were watching this game live at the time, listened to the way Hubie Brown and Not Kevin Harlan talk about the first-round pick out of Arizona you would have thought the Rockets had a Big 4 plus Matt Maloney. If you were wondering how Dickerson’s career played out, hop on over to his Basketball-Reference page. (Spoiler alert: He did not become Scottie Pippen 2.0.) Still, this game was highlighted by the surprise Kobe start and how Shaq dropped 31 and it felt like he could have easily dropped 50 if necessary.

One of my favorite moments watching this game was a nugget from Hubie on something Kobe did during the game: “Kobe was yelling for the extra pass Harper just gave him a look.” The sequence that Hubie is referring to is a play where, yes, Kobe was open, but Harper was open in his sweet spot again -- top of the key, behind the three-point line -- and had the audacity to not swing it to the kid making his first start. Kobe was Kobe from the start. It should be noted that Harper was on fire here, posting an offensive rating of 194 per 100 possessions. In a game where three-pointers were few and far between, Derek F’ing Harper was locked in from deep. Still, Kobe wasn’t wrong to be annoyed not to be getting the ball as much as possible in this game as he and Shaq were doing everything to keep Barkley and the Rockets from offensive-rebounding them into submission. Kobe’s usage rating was 27.9 with Shaq’s at 33.4 and the next closest was backup center Elden Campbell at 20.1. Eddie Jones, prior to rolling his ankle in brutal fashion, was a non-factor and it seemed like even he recognized in Game 1 that it was Kobe Time in Los Angeles. It started early, too, as Kobe drained fadeaway long two from the left side and would you like to guess who the announcers immediately compared it to? Prime Eddie Jones? No, they compared him to Michael Jordan. Hubie even knew right away. Kobe posted a double-double, but, you’re not going to believe this, but it was a points-and-rebounds version along with several very mean blocks on Pippen. There were several possessions where Kobe dribbled the ball up, looked around a little bit, realized he was a better scorer than everyone around him not named Shaquille O’Neal and threw up a long two. At one point in this game the Lakers’ starting backcourt was 0-for-10 from the floor -- Derek Fisher and Eddie Jones -- and I think I’ve decided it’s their fault for not destroying Maloney and Dickerson in this game that pushed Kobe to take the same amount of shots as Prime Shaq in a game where the latter posted a quiet 31/14/6 line.

The Kobe and Shaq combination worked. We know what happened after this season, after the coach from Space Jam moved on, after Corie Blount wasn’t starting any more games for the Lakers, after the geometrically-friendly offense was instituted, after Derek Fisher stopped wearing high socks, the Lakers won back-to-back-to-back championships and it was because of Kobe and Shaq. But if you watched this game, and Hakeem doesn’t go scoreless for almost an entire half of basketball, and Pippen doesn’t go 1-for-1000 from the field, and the Rockets win, the story, in a negative sense, is that Kobe took the same amount of shots as the guy went 13-for-21 from the field, drew consistent double-teams, and was doing whatever he wanted inside all night long. Kobe, for his part, went 8-21, which seems like a ration for the rest of his career, but you had to watch all 48 minutes to see why it wasn’t so bad. There was some Your Turn My Turn action, sure, but Kobe had it going for stretches, he needed to get a lot of shots off because he was only getting major minutes because of Fox’s injury, and because he was filling up the stat sheet in other ways like swiping the ball away from Pippen and Friends on multiple occasions, along with getting a block and finding the right time to cut on the weak side when all the attention was on Shaq or, checks notes, Sean Rooks, inside.

This was also not Eddie Jones best game of his career. He couldn’t hit a shot from deep and eight minutes would go by without hearing the announcers call his name. He was on the floor, he played 42 minutes, but you might have missed it if you weren’t paying close attention. I was seven-years-old when this game took place, and I was too young to really have a good feel for who Eddie Jones was as a basketball player, but from this game alone, he was Joe Johnson before Joe Johnson. You could tell he could shoot, you could tell he was at least a b-plus player offensively, but he just didn’t seem to have the fire to be like a Kobe or any other all-time great 2-guard. He blended in far too often, but if he’s your No. 3 or No. 4 guy, that’s OK. The same has been true for Johnson throughout his career. He was overmatched as the No. 1 option in Atlanta, but when the pressure wasn’t on him to be The Guy in Phoenix he thrived. I imagine Laker fans during this time were as annoyed with Jones as Hawks fans were with Johnson or Celtics fans were with Jeff Green. There are so many of these kinds of players, it’s kind of crazy.

 

Did you know Scottie Pippen was no fan of Matt Maloney or Bryce Drew -- yes, that Bryce Drew -- bringing the ball up for Rudy T’s team? If you watched this game you knew. It was fun to watch Pippen working as a point forward, although, in Year 11, and his first game with Houston, he looked less like Bulls Pippen and a lot more like Orlando Magic Hedo Turkoglu. He was still posting up a ton, but his vision was incredible in this game, and he had a feel for how to beat the Lakers and it wasn’t with their backcourt. It was with finding the rookie on some cuts, it was with Hakeem early-and-often, and it was with Barkley late when it was clear the man was on a mission to steal one in Los Angeles. It didn’t work, the Rockets lost by 8, but Pippen still contributed even though he couldn’t shoot for shit all night. He got blocked by Kobe in this game, had him his pick his pocket on multiple occasions, and didn’t let any of that stop him from slinging some dimes to Othella Harrington when necessary.

But the Rockets should have won this game. The Lakers, without Horry, couldn’t handle the combination of Barkley and Hakeem inside, just look at the offensive-rebounding disparity, but they went away from Hakeem for way too much time and tried way too hard to get Dickerson involved in everything they were doing. Still, it was interesting to watch Year 14 Barkley body guys inside similar to the way Julius Randle does it in today’s NBA. He could have had 30 and 10 and it still wouldn’t have been enough because Pippen was insanely off and Hakeem stopped getting the ball after the first quarter where he swished a mid-range jumper from just about every spot around the key. The other team had Kobe and Shaq. You'll get used to it.

NFL Regular Season Hype, WWE Face and Heel Drama, and Jets Preview With Jason B Hirschhorn, Chris Walder of theScore, Andy Vasquez of The Record and Michael Lombardi of The Ringer (Ep. 197)

Chase Thomas is joined by NFL writer Jason B. Hirschhorn to talk about the Saints trading for Teddy Bridgewater, the Packers locking up Aaron Rodgers long-term, the problems with the Oakland Raiders in the AFC West, why the Pittsburgh Steelers should be the favorites in the AFC, and why the Minnesota Vikings should be the favorites in the NFC (4:00). Then, theScore's Chris Walder jumps on the pod to talk about Braun Strowman's heel turn on Raw, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair's feud, Kevin Owens quitting the WWE, and Neville getting officially released by the company (60:00). Then, The Record's Andy Vasquez jumps on the pod to talk about preseason New York Jets hype, Sam Darnold winning the QB job, the offensive coordinator change from Morton to Bates, the issues with the pass rush, and what to expect wins-wise for the Jets in 2018 (145:00). Lastly, The Ringer's Michael Lombardi comes up on the pod to talk about his career, his new book "Gridiron Genius", Bill Belichick vs. Bill Walsh, the concern with the Cowboys and Eagles, Jon Gruden in Oakland, and why the Houston Texans could be Super Bowl bound in 2018 (207:00).