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It’s Way Too Early To Judge NFL Rookie Debuts (So Let’s Do It Anyway)

First, we talk about the race in the NL East between at least the Braves and the Phillies — and perhaps, also, maybe the struggling Mets. Since it’s only Neil and Geoff today, much attention is paid to the Mets’ struggle to play at least as well as their expectations. But even as far as the Mets’ recent history of disappointment goes, this season feels different because the organization was all in, in a way it hadn’t been for many years. The Phillies’ and the Braves’ surges are also the result of their organizations’ commitment at the trade deadline and show just how much team-building is possible there — assuming that someone like the Nationals decides to throw a fire sale. While the Braves probably have the best shot of making it out of the division, we think the Phillies are slightly underrated, and they have a relaxed schedule to help them put things together down the stretch.

Next, we read some very weak tea leaves from the first games in the NFL preseason. Mostly it’s just fun to see the rookie QBs out and throwing the football (sometimes up to 80 yards), but there are some genuine questions about who will be taking snaps for New England, Chicago and San Francisco — the experienced veterans or the draftees? The rookie quarterbacks who are going to be forced to start whether they’re ready or not also looked OK, but it’ll be a long, steep climb for both Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville and Zach Wilson for the Jets. Just like hot takes about rookies, our early forecast model is already hard at work, and so we also play a little over/under on the projected regular season records of the main frontrunners. The Chiefs, Bucs and Bills all feel right at home at the top, but what will be interesting to see is which team currently projected around .500 will break free of the middle of the pack.  

Finally, we interview author Greg Larson about his book “Clubbie: A Minor League Baseball Memoir.” He spent two years as a clubhouse manager for the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a A-ball affiliate of the Orioles. Going from fan to member of a team staff, Greg saw firsthand some of the best and worst aspects of the minors, and he came away with ideas for how to improve them (plus some amazing stories about what makes them so great). 

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.