Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: ChiSox, Favre, Bama

Today's Calls: White Sox vs. Tigers (and Twins), Brewers vs. Phillies, Brett Favre vs. Larry Johnson, Titans vs. Bills, Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Jimmie Johnson vs. Carl Edwards and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: You know what I love about the White Sox having to play the Tigers today? ↵

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↵It's not even a "playoff" yet. It's a "play-in." ↵

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↵If Chicago wins, only THEN will they get the chance to play in a one-game playoff with the Twins for the AL Central title. ↵

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↵A loss today? Oblivion. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, what a spot for the Tigers: It's kind of like their playoffs, although "ruining another team's season" as motivation is more postmodern than postseason. ↵

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↵In one way, it's truly awesome: Detroit's entire deal is either to (a) ruin Chicago's season, purely out of spite, or (b) phone it in. (Note: Detroit lost in 11 yesterday AND fired their pitching coaches.) ↵

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↵You have to root for the Sox, if only so we get one more one-game win-or-bust situation on Tuesday. ↵

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↵Whatever: As of 2:05 ET today, your workday just got so much more interesting. ↵

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↵Brewers clinch Wild Card: You know what? Forget what I said before -- "CC for Cy" should be SO back on! Because no NL pitcher has been more valuable to his team -- um, his playoff team -- than Sabathia. ↵

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↵Because it is in large part because of Sabathia that the Brewers fended off oblivion to earn their first playoff spot since 1982, and Sabathia's short-rest surge was the difference, particularly Sunday. ↵

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↵As for the Mets? Another year, another choke job. This year wasn't as bad as last year's, but it's still pretty brutal, given the payroll; the expectations; the just-win-once opportunity on Sunday; and, of course, that it was otherwise the final game at Shea. FAIL. ↵

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↵Josh Beckett not available until Game 3 -- and the question is whether his strained oblique will strain his effectiveness, even if the Best Postseason Pitcher of Our Generation does pitch. ↵

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↵MLB playoff picks coming Wednesday morning. ↵

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↵NFL Wrap: Week 4 is just about the moment when whatever you thought you understood about the NFL this season, you clearly don't. You can start with Brett Favre's 6 TDs and work down from there: ↵

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↵*The Cowboys are the best team in the NFL, hands down: The Redskins, apparently, didn't get that memo, stunning Dallas in Dallas. ↵

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↵*Larry Johnson is terrible, as are the Chiefs: Um, 198 yards and 2 TDs for LJ, not to mention a KC W over the previously unbeaten Broncos says you're wrong. ↵

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↵*The Bears are irrelevant: Then they go and stop the Eagles 4 times on 4 downs inside the Bears 5 to seal a huge primetime win. ↵

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↵*The Titans can't possibly go 4-0. After all, they have never done that in franchise history: Actually, Kerry Collins is a contender for quarter-season league MVP and Chris Johnson, draft-day mockery, is a strong pick for quarter-season Rookie of the Year. ↵

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↵*The Jaguars are toast: The Jags are sizzling. (And if there's a hotter team, it would only be the previously 0-2 Chargers, who hung a staggering 25 4th-quarter points on the Raiders in Oakland.) ↵

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↵*Bench Derek Anderson! So Aaron Rodgers is a pretty good fill-in for Favre! Matt Ryan seems to be a competent "game manager": Wrong, wrong (and injured?), wrong. ↵

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↵Fortunately, some things are blissfully consistent: The Rams are awful. (But the Bills are 4-0! Of anything, I'll bet ya didn't see THAT coming in August!) ↵

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↵CFB Weekend Wrap: As a Florida fan, the weekend's surge of upsets -- from USC on Thursday to Wisconsin choking on Saturday afternoon to Alabama clocking Georgia in Athens Saturday night -- stung a bit more than usual. ↵

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↵Two BCS-league unbeatens facing off in the national-title game looks highly unlikely: The Big 3 from the Big 12 will ultimately shake out, and LSU and Alabama still play each other head-to-head. (That's without further unexpected upsets -- which you know will happen.) ↵

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↵As for the teams that lost, USC will have trouble climbing back in with its puffy schedule; Florida could resurrect itself with a run to the SEC title, but if they can't beat Ole Miss at home, that seems highly unlikely. ↵

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↵With apologies to a surging Penn State and the BYU-Utah survivor, the most likely end-game remains the Big 12 champ vs. the SEC champ. The only difference between this week and last week is that the pair will simply not be undefeated when they meet. ↵

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↵CFB Top 25 Gripe of the Week: I'm not quite sure what the Coaches are thinking, ranking Alabama at No. 4. I chalk it up to the "inertia" rationale: Because OU or LSU or Mizzou started the preseason in the top 10, of COURSE they should be ahead of Bama, who started just inside the top 25 -- actual on-field results be damned. How dumb. ↵

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↵Must-Read: Spencer Hall's A-to-Z. ↵

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↵BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot, Sneak Peek: (1) Alabama; (2) Oklahoma; (3) LSU; (4) Texas; (5) Missouri; (6) Penn State; (7) BYU; (8) South Florida; (9) Texas Tech; (10) USC (begrudgingly). ↵

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↵(Complete ballot found here. Leave a comment to weigh in.) ↵

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↵NASCAR: Huge win for Jimmie Johnson, holding off Carl Edwards in the race's last throes -- and ending the Biffle dominance in the Chase. ↵

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↵MLB Milestones: 39-year-old Mike Mussina became the oldest pitcher ever to win 20 games. It was also the first 20-win season of his not-quite-Hall-of-Fame career. Will he hold on/hold out for 300? ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Bruce Springsteen was announced as the halftime performer of Super Bowl XLIII. His selection wasn't a surprise and is a safe, solid choice who can't help but deliver (stick to old material!) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Paul Newman, remembered. Out of his wonderful career, let's merely focus on his influence the genre of sports movies: ↵

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↵There was "Slap-Shot", arguably the greatest hockey movie of all time and one of the Top 5 sports movies of all time. ↵

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↵Then there was his work in "The Hustler" and, 20 years later in its sequel, "The Color of Money," for which he won an Oscar. ↵

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↵Both of those movies make the all-time sports-movie Top 20. There isn't another actor with that kind of impact across the top sports movies ever. ↵

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↵Condolences to his family, friends, fans and many admirers. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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