Will the Mets be in contention on Sept. 15?

The first inclination is to say yes, only because Terry Collins -- a Manager of the Year candidate -- has done a great job with a young, ever-changing roster. It also helps that the NL is more watered down this season and has an extra wild card. But depth remains a big issue. If the Mets survive their 11-game West Coast trip later this month, they'll be in good shape for the stretch run.

Can R.A. Dickey win the Cy Young Award?

It goes without saying that Dickey is now the ace of the Mets' staff, which means the team's playoff hopes are riding on the fickle flight of his knuckleball. But Dickey's mastery of the pitch makes it more reliable than the knuckleballs thrown by his predecessors, and there's no reason to think it suddenly will disappear, so he's a real threat to win the Cy Young.

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What trade will Sandy Alderson swing to boost the Mets' chances?

This is easier said than done. The Mets have obvious needs -- relief help, a righthanded bat, a replacement for Dillon Gee -- but there are a number of obstacles to making a deal. Competition is fierce this time of year, especially for a decent starter, and Alderson does not want to part with any top prospects. His best shot is for a reliever, maybe the A's Grant Balfour.

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Is David Wright the National League's MVP?

Fortunately, fans don't get a vote for this award, and Wright should continue to build a very strong case. But a few other things need to happen. First, the Pirates must slip up, because Andrew McCutchen is setting a furious MVP pace. If the Mets make the playoffs and Pittsburgh fails, that will help Wright's chances.

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Who would pitch the do-or-die

one-game wild-card playoff?

That could be influenced by how the rotation lines up during the final week, but it's got to be Dickey. No offense to Johan Santana, a two-time Cy Young winner who already has thrown a no-hitter this year, but Dickey has been the most unhittable pitcher on the staff this season. The Mets just have to hope there's no rain in the forecast.