We start with the World Series, which is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ to lose despite the Tampa Bay Rays pulling off some wild surprises, especially in Game 4. But all our hosts approve of the Rays’ aggressive play. It’s exciting to watch, and with a pitching staff as stacked as L.A.’s, the Florida team needs to force key players like Walker Buehler and Julio Urías to pay if they’re not perfect all the time. This leads to a discussion of who the nerdiest team in professional sports is, currently. The Rays are up there, perhaps only surpassed by the Houston Rockets, but as we talked about on the show last week, sabermetric geekery has triumphed in every corner of sports. The Dodgers are an incredibly nerdy team: They just also happen to be super rich.
Next we turn our attention to the NFL, and in particular to the struggles of the New England Patriots. A lot of the Pats’ problems do center on how out of step (if still fashion-forward) quarterback Cam Newton looks. But Newton’s lack of offensive weapons and the complete erosion of the Pats’ defense are the root of the problem — a fact made all the more clear by how Tom Brady is thriving on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s not that Brady has some secret elixir of youth (probably) — he has Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, a resurgent Rob Gronkowski, a functional defense and an offensive line that hasn’t been horribly battered. The real question is: Can Bill Belichick turn things around? We’d never count him out, but given how Newton seems to be playing, we struggle to see which assets he could activate or what he could change.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, FiveThirtyEight designer Emily Scherer brings her expert eye to helping us evaluate championship patches across sports. From the delightful to the experimental to the just plain boring, she and Neil evaluate how the major leagues handle the extra flare of marking championship teams’ jerseys. The NFL and NBA are pretty uninspired, all things considered, but MLB and the WNBA have done some interesting things, and the NHL makes up for its laser focus on the Stanley Cup with the sheer volume of patches you can put on hockey jerseys.
What we’re looking at this week: