No one can deny that 2020 has been a wacky year with the coronavirus pandemic. So, of course, baseball fans get to rejoice, or get sick to the stomach, over the upcoming ALDS matchup between the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s.

Normally, two teams that are rivals and play in the AL West is enough to get the blood boiling. This is different. Oakland’s starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who was a former Astros pitcher, was the original player who called out Houston’s sign-stealing practices.

Fans everywhere will think of this game as a “Good Guys” vs. “Villains” battle.

We obviously know what happened afterward with the fallout. Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired from the organization, and MLB suspended them for one season. The team also received the maximum allowable $5 million fine and forfeited its first- and second-round draft picks for the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

On the other hand, the players didn’t receive any penalties for their part in the scandal because the MLB gave them immunity in exchange for their cooperation. This drew scoff from players around the league, and some went even as far as saying they would intentionally hurt an Astros player. That thinking is never OK, and I explained why before the regular season.

Since July 23, the Astros limped into the playoffs with a below .500 record (29-31), but they did what they do best — win postseason games. Houston swept the Minnesota Twins 2-0 in the ALWC. Meanwhile, the A’s won the AL West but needed three games and a come-from-behind victory to win the series 2-1 against the Chicago White Sox.

It comes down to pitching. Both teams should get their runs in throughout the series, but the deciding factor will be whose pitching rotation can last an entire nine innings. Houston has done well without pitching star Justin Verlander. The team has relied on rookies and newbies, but I also expect Zack Greinke to finally break through and play to the level he did while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It absolutely would be hilarious if the Astros won the 2020 World Series Championship because everyone is watching the team's every movement. I just don’t think it will happen, but I can always hope for this funny moment.

I’m taking the Oakland A’s to beat the Houston Astros in five games.

NFL

The coronavirus has finally struck the NFL. The Tennessee Titans are the first football team to have an outbreak on the team. As of Thursday evening, the Titans have had five players and seven personnel staff members test positive since Sept. 26.

The Minnesota Vikings, who the Tennessee Titans played in Week 3, had zero people test positive for COVID-19. The Vikings will get to play their game later today. As for Tennessee, the team will have to make up its date with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. Oct. 25 during Week 7.

The NFL said the game will be made up either Monday or Tuesday but more likely Tuesday, according to ESPN.”

Anyone who has been watching any sports, especially baseball, knew this was bound to happen. It was announced late Saturday morning the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs had players test positive for COVID-19. New England’s starting quarterback Cam Newton will be out for the game, and KC’s practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu tested positive for COVID-19 too, according to ESPN sources. The league obviously will have to monitor each day to make careful future decisions.

Additionally, NFL teams such as the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers are letting fans into the stadium — at limited capacity, of course. We’ll have to wait and see if more NFL teams follow suit or if something else happens.

Finally, I finished Week 3 11-4-1, which once again is great but not fantastic. (The tie is from the Philadelphia/Cincinnati game.) I’m still searching for a week where I get 12 or 13 or more picks correct. Maybe it’ll happen this week, but for now, let’s look at the four games I’m analyzing for Week 4.

ANALYSIS

NEW ORLEANS VS. DETROIT

Both teams come in at 1-2, and both teams are desperate to end the week 2-2, rather than 1-3. The Saints are coming off consecutive losses (which surprises me), and the Lions finally won a game to end an 11-game, 11-month losing streak to help out head coach Matt Patricia.

Both teams clearly have flaws on the defensive side of the ball. This means both teams’ offenses will need to execute every opportunity they receive at a high level. The New Orleans Saints have too many more weapons on offense than the Detroit Lions to not take advantage of this opportunity.

ARIZONA VS. CAROLINA

Last week Arizona blew a game against Detroit, and Carolina finally got rookie head coach Matt Rhule’s first win. I think this will be a close game. Arizona should win this game, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and backup running back Mike Davis, who filled in nicely for the injured Christian McCaffrey, will have something to say about that.

Both teams can move the ball, but both also give up plenty of yards on defense. The defenses will need to step up or at least bend but not break. Sacks and quarterback pressure will be a key stat in this game.

MINNESOTA VS. HOUSTON

Frantic times come with frantic measures. I don’t think either club expected to come into this Week 4 matchup 0-3, especially when both teams have plenty of talent to at least get one win before Week 4. Houston’s offense does great on its first drive before fizzling out. Minnesota hangs around with its opponent before falling apart in one quarter, which derails any chances of winning.

If I was the head coach of either team, I’d put the emphasis on time of possession. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who is No. 3 in rushing yards, will face the worst run defense in the league in the Texans. If I was Mike Zimmer, I would keep feeding Cook the ball as many times as possible to keep Houston QB Deshaun Watson off the field. If I was general manager/head coach Bill O’Brien (scary thought there because no thank you), I would find ways to keep steady, long, time-consuming drives on offense while having one guy more often than not spying on Cook at all times.

Both teams need a win badly, but only one team will have a W in the win column after Sunday is over.

PHILADELPHIA VS. SAN FRANCISCO

In a way, I feel bad for Philadelphia. Despite Carson Wentz’s ACL tear three years ago, he can play at a high level. This also would require a consistent offensive pass blocking, which isn’t happening. Plus, Wentz’s wide receiver room is empty because one wide receiver is listed out, one wide receiver is listed doubtful, and one wide receiver is listed questionable as of Friday evening. This doesn’t exactly set up the recipe for success, but it’s what Wentz has to work with Sunday night.

On the opposite side of the field, San Francisco is looking to get quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle back from injuries this week. If it weren’t for a disappointing loss to Arizona in Week 1, this team could be undefeated. As long as the offense can score touchdowns, they will be fine because the defense should handle Philadelphia’s decimated offensive attack. If they let the Eagles hang around, the 49ers could be in for a dog fight.

WEEK 4 PREDICTIONS

New York Jets 13, Denver 10

(0-1)

Indianapolis 23, Chicago 20

Cincinnati 27, Jacksonville 23

Dallas 35, Cleveland 28

New Orleans 26, Detroit 23

Seattle 39, Miami 20

Tampa Bay 36, Los Angeles Chargers 24

Baltimore 33, Washington 20

Carolina 28, Arizona 27

Minnesota 30, Houston 27

Los Angeles Rams 31, New York Giants 23

Buffalo 24, Las Vegas 21

San Francisco 21, Philadelphia 16

Green Bay 37, Atlanta 30

Kansas City 38, New England 31

Game postponed: Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee

Week 3 results: 11-4-1

2020 NFL football prediction record: 33-14-1

Overall winning average: .698

Note: If key player(s) won’t start a game that I believe could change the outcome of a game, I will update my scoring predictions.

Keenan Betz: 409-683-5237, keenan.betz@galvnews.com or on Twitter @surebetkeenan

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