2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC South Edition

Mandatory Minicamp has just concluded, and school is over for me.  So today, I’ll be resuming my NFL Draft Report Card series with the NFC South.  Teams in the NFC South either thrived in this draft or struggled mightily.  Which teams do I think benefitted the most?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

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NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

Overall, this was a pretty solid draft for Carolina.  They found a high upside WR in Round 7 to replace Devin Funchess.  They filled their needs at tackle and edge early.  They even took a QB in case Cam Newton fails to stay healthy.  Will Grier is a big upgrade for Carolina at backup QB as opposed to Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen.

The Panthers did have a lot of needs going in, and with just 7 picks, it was hard to fill them all.  But they could’ve traded down at some point, and they could’ve taken a corner to play across from Donte Jackson as opposed to RB Jordan Scarlett.  Christian McCaffrey is a long term solution for Carolina at RB1, and they are set if he gets hurt thanks to Cameron Artis-Payne.  It’s somewhat smart to add depth there in case multiple injuries occur, but they needed a corner more, and McCaffrey has not been terribly injury prone.  Despite a couple mistakes in the later rounds, this was a pretty good draft, and it would’ve been hard for Carolina to do much better.

nosaints New Orleans Saints

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

It was hard for the Saints to succeed with only 5 picks, 4 of which were on Day 3.  But unlike Philadelphia, who was also limited to 5 picks, the Saints found a way to fill a few needs early on and make the most of their draft situation.  They drafted Erik McCoy in Round 2 to fill their biggest need as he replaces the retired Max Unger at center.  They also snagged a top safety, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with their 2nd pick.  They could have looked for a receiver later on, and some of their later picks were reaches, but the Saints got off to a strong start and should be able to look back and admire this draft class in a few years.

tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis:

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Analysis:

The Buccaneers had some really strong picks, and some questionable ones.  The team will have flexibility on defense after drafting LB Devin White in Round 1 and edge rusher Anthony Nelson in the 4th.  But beyond that, the Bucs struggled in this draft.  They didn’t really fill many of their needs.  I would think they would draft a running back after the Year 1 struggles of Ronald Jones II, but maybe they need to give RoJo more of a chance before giving up on him, something other teams neglected to do for their rookie and second year busts.

The team also could’ve used more depth at WR beyond Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but they chose not to draft anyone until Round 6, when they reached for Scott Miller of Bowling Green.  They did sign Breshad Perriman, but I don’t know if that will be enough.  Expect to see a lot of 2 TE schemes with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on the roster.    The team also reached for a kicker once again.  This team didn’t have that many huge needs, so I would’ve thought they would fill more of those as opposed to drafting three unnecessary defensive backs and reaching for some other players.

atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Falcons really needed some depth at linebacker with Vic Beasley playing defensive end, but they didn’t end up drafting one.  Who will be lining up on either side of Deion Jones come Week 1?  I can’t name anyone definitively right now.  They did get o-line help, but both o-linemen they drafted in Round 1 may have been found available in Round 2, or at least someone almost as good as them.  The team did draft some secondary depth and a couple RBs to backup for Devonta Freeman, but those picks were also reaches.  All of their picks were either a reach or an unnecessary pick.  I would’ve expected a couple spot on selections.


 

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  In my next post, I’ll be reviewing the NFC West’s draft classes.  Which NFC West teams stood out the most in this year’s draft?  Stay tuned for my next post to find out.

Bruins Secure Game 7 over Leafs after Strong Start

5 minutes into the game, it was scoreless.  The Bruins began the game out-shooting Toronto 4-0, but the Leafs got into Bruins territory.  By the time the Bruins had their next real chance to score, it was still scoreless, but the Leafs were out-shooting the Bruins 7-5.  Matt Grzelyck was stuck in traffic in the offensive zone, but he found Joakim Nordstrom  open, and just like that, the Bruins were up 1-0!

They went on to dominate Game 7, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1.  They were led by a dominant fourth line and a 30-save game out of Tuukka Rask.  Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari made up tonight’s fourth line, and the three of them combined for 2 goals and 3 assists.

The game did not have many penalties.  It consisted mostly of back and forth goalpost action.  The Leafs ended up out-shooting the Bruins 33-32, but the Bruins were far more successful in scoring.

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This back and forth action continued through most of the rest of the 1st period, but Marcus Johansson scored Boston’s second goal unassisted soon before 1st intermission.  Johansson had possession behind the net and whipped around for the goal before Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen could do anything about it.

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Boston slowed down a bit during the 2nd period.  A quick offensive takeaway for Tyler Ennis (who assisted) led to a John Tavares goal to begin the period.  This made it 2-1 Bruins.  The back and forth play continued until Bruins defender Brandon Carlo was penalized for cross-checking Andreas Johnson.  The power play allowed Toronto some more chances to score, but Tuukka Rask and the defense stood strong, preventing all of them.  I had expected a back and forth high scoring game due to the recent defensive struggles of these two teams.  But the Bruins defense rose to the occasion tonight and was part of the reason why they made it out of Round 1.

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After the strong Bruins defensive play, the Leafs didn’t really gain any more traction until late into the 2nd period.  But once again, Tuukka Rask stood strong and picked up 3 more saves.

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The Bruins took control after 2nd intermission.  The 3rd period began in Boston territory, but the Bruins received the puck a couple minutes in, Sean Kuraly got out of a difficult situation, driving the puck all the way to the goal.  3-1 Bruins.  Once again, the 4th line stepped it up for the B’s.  About 5 minutes in, the Maple Leafs began another power play after the Bruins got caught with an extra man on the ice.  The results were much less the same as the first power play.

The Bruins were still up by 2 with 3 minutes to go, so the Leafs emptied their net.  Toronto kept the puck under control at first, but after Charlie Coyle’s offensive takeaway, there was nothing to stop a Bruins empty net goal.  Patrice Bergeron scored another empty netter at the last minute to make it 5-1 Bruins and secure the victory.

The Columbus Blue Jackets eliminated Tampa Bay, so the Bruins will be taking on Columbus in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Can they come up victorious and become one of the final four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?  Find out later this week.

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Welcome to Article #2 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, though I am covering teams that are unlikely to contend, all of these teams have something to look forward to, and I will be discussing that.  Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

Let’s jump right back into the rankings:

24. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

The Case for the Mariners

There were rumors that the Mariners would finally rebuild this off-season after Jerry Dipoto’s roster retooling has failed the Mariners time and time again. But Dipoto was back at it this winter. He did make the roster a bit younger, but there were no blatant signs of a full rebuild. The Mariners did, however, trade away Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, two of the team’s best players. He also let Nelson Cruz walk. That will lead to some regression this season. Most teams regress after losing their best player or two. Look at what happened to the Tigers without Justin Verlander. Adding Edwin Encarnacion gives them a new centerpiece for now, but how long will he remain elite, and how long will Dipoto keep him around for?

Something to Look Forward to

The Mariners haven’t really found an identity yet this season.  But by the end of the year, I think they will be known as a power-hitting team.  Encarnacion and Jay Bruce add power to a lineup that already has Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon, and other big hitters.  Maybe Kyle Seager will even bounce back this year.  Dipoto seems to have confidence in Seager.  The rotation may struggle, but this lineup could be a nightmare at times for opposing pitchers.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 5th in AL West

23. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

The Case for the Padres

The Padres are taking small steps back towards contention after a rebuild before 2017. They signed 1B Eric Hosmer before 2018 to enhance their lineup, and they enhanced it further by signing 26-year old free agent 3B Manny Machado, one of the top two free agents on the market. They also added 2B Ian Kinsler for the year as well and are targeting top remaining SPs like Dallas Keuchel. They should continue to gradually add pieces to the puzzle as their incoming prospects develop and make their way up. Top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. will likely make his way up this year. Though the Padres won’t contend in 2019, the future is bright in San Diego, and maybe Tatis’ first full season in 2020 will spark something alongside a few more veterans.

Something to Look Forward to

I think the #1 thing to look forward to here is what’s ahead in San Diego.  Padres fans might be disappointed in the team right now, but that will all change in the years to come.  After attempting to rush to contention in 2016, the Padres have tried to take things slow this time around.  It has made for a painful few years in San Diego, but the Padres are more likely to succeed now that they have a mix of veteran talent (Machado, Hosmer, Myers) and intriguing prospects like Tatis.  The rotation is still a major issue though.  That will have to be fixed before the Padres even think about contention.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in NL West

22. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

The Case for the Rangers

The Rangers may not be what they used to be, especially with 3B Adrian Beltre retiring. But they won’t be as bad as people think. People don’t give enough credit to the non-roster invites Texas handed out this off-season. A lot of the players they added deserved major league deals, but waited too long and missed out. This group includes OF Hunter Pence, two-way player Matt Davidson, 2B Logan Forsythe, and UT Danny Santana. They also added Asdrubal Cabrera on an MLB deal. These veterans could add to the lineup’s core of Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus, and Nomar Mazara. The rotation has some nice veteran pieces as well, but there is no true ace – most of the starters are about equally talented. The bullpen could also be better, but this team should still avoid last place in the AL West.

Something to Look Forward to

The Rangers may not be ready for contention yet, and the future is uncertain.  But their lineup could be pretty powerful considering the veterans they added this off-season like Pence and Cabrera.  Andrus,  Gallo, and Mazara already made for a pretty powerful trio.

Projected Finish: 73-89, 4th in AL West

21. Related image Tampa Bay Rays

The Case for the Rays

The Rays were on the verge of contention in 2018 despite making numerous subtractions in the 2017-18 off-season and at the 2018 Trade Deadline. They lost more of their players in 2018 free agency, and they didn’t bring in replacements. I think that their money-saving tactics will get to them in 2019. It will be hard to maintain a viable rotation even with the opener.  This is especially true when you consider the fact that #3 starter Tyler Glasnow has minimal experience as a starting pitcher. The lineup lacks a true centerpiece as it has since Evan Longoria left. Playoff contention is not sustainable for the second year in a row as the Rays continue to subtract. What they are doing is starting a rebuild. The 2018 team was never supposed to contend, and I expect the same here.

Something to Look Forward to

Though I see the team taking a step back after dumping away some of their veterans, young talent has already began to populate the roster, and it could mean good things for the future of this team.  Yandy Diaz is an underrated player, and Matt Duffy, Willy Adames, Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Glasnow, Brent Honeywell, Christian Arroyo, and others will also make a significant impact in the long run if they don’t in 2019.

Projected Finish: 75-87, 4th in AL East

20. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are beginning a rebuild after trading away Josh Donaldson and Curtis Granderson and releasing Troy Tulowitzki. Yet they are in the same spot as last year. This is because their next wave of prospects, headlined by future All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is on their way up. I believe that if these prospects live up to expectations, the team will not regress so much from last year. If things work out, the Jays might be a couple starting pitchers away from contention by 2020. But for now, the Blue Jays will sit around .500 as they struggle to keep up with their AL East rivals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Something to Look Forward to

The Jays could contend very soon, as they were able to get rid of declining players without suffering from the holes they left.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and others give me confidence in the future of the team.  This year, they’ll look to replace the players the Blue Jays moved on from.

Projected Finish: 79-83, 3rd in AL East

19. Related image Oakland Athletics

The Case for the Athletics

The A’s are coming off a surprise playoff appearance. But though they did add SP Marco Estrada and INF Jurickson Profar to replace 2B Jed Lowrie (left in free agency) and Sean Manaea (injured), expect regression in 2019. Their miraculous playoff run will not be repeated. The rotation lacks the same depth is had in 2018 with Jharel Cotton and Manaea injured. The bullpen could make up for that, especially if the A’s use the opener again, but a playoff contender needs a good rotation and multiple power hitters in the lineup. You could argue the A’s already have the latter in Matt Chapman and Khris Davis, but the rotation is definitely a problem, and the A’s could have used another power hitter.

Something to Look Forward to

If Chapman, Matt Olson, and Davis produce like they did last year, this lineup could lead the Athletics to exceed expectations.  This lineup also gives me confidence that though the Athletics don’t have much money, they are capable of crafting contending teams that are mostly homegrown.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 3rd in AL West


That’s all for this 2nd article in my MLB 2019 preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for more MLB and Red Sox coverage soon.  In my next power ranking article, I’ll be looking at the teams in the middle of the pack, #18-13.

2018 NFL Week 13 Picks & Previews: Lots of Crucial Divisional Matchups Occur

Welcome to my NFL Week 13 picks and previews.  Last week, I went 11-4, putting my overall record at 96-78-2 (96-79-2 including Week 13 TNF).  I am still ahead of 1 CBS Sports expert. This week, a lot of divisional matchups occur, with many of them having playoff implications.  The Eagles and Redskins play for 2nd place in the NFC East, and the loser may be knocked out of contention. The Colts visit Jacksonville hoping to increase their chances at a wild card spot.  Who will win these divisional games? Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

Look for dominance from the Rams defense in the first shutout of the NFL season.  The revamped duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters won’t give up anything to Detroit’s depleted WR corps, and DT Aaron Donald and company will shut down QB Matthew Stafford and the run game.  The Rams will not need more than a couple touchdowns for a Rams clinic victory thanks to the strong defense. Meanwhile, The Lions will begin to miss RB Kerryon Johnson and WRs Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in a shutout loss.  

Upset of the Week

The Panthers are coming off two frustrating last-minute losses, and the Buccaneers are coming off a much-needed victory.  Look for QB Jameis Winston to ride the momentum and put up his best performance yet against Carolina. The Bucs D will still give up plenty to QB Cam Newton and his versatile offensive core.  But a 3 or 4 TD game from Winston should be enough for the Buccaneers to pull the upset.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted to Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 13-10 Cowboys)

QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will be slowed down significantly by the improving New Orleans defense.  Meanwhile, QB Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas will lead the Saints to victory despite the Dallas defense’s shut down of the Saints RB duo.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami to hold on for a home victory against a young Bills defense that is not great but can be pesky at times.  QB Ryan Tannehill will lead the Dolphins here, even without WR Danny Amendola. QB Josh Allen and his offense will perform better than they usually do, but expect them to just fall short in Miami against a mediocre, but not putrid Dolphins defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for the Atlanta defense to step it up against rookie QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, especially with RB Alex Collins on IR.  QB Matt Ryan won’t have an amazing game against this strong Baltimore D, but it will be enough thanks to the improving Falcons defense.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Broncos will ride the momentum to a third straight win as the defense dominates against a banged-up Cincinnati pass offense that will miss QB Andy Dalton, especially since WR A.J. Green is not 100%.  The Broncos will be alright offensively without TE Jeff Heuerman, as QB Case Keenum finally begins to rely on his receivers more in the Denver victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect QB Deshaun Watson to put up another strong game against the inexperienced Browns defense.  Meanwhile, the Texans D will do a respectable job in shutting down QB Baker Mayfield and this young Browns offensive core.  The Texans will win triumphantly as they play strong football all around.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Jaguars to win by a surprisingly large margin as they host the Colts.  They came close in Indy, so I expect a win in Jacksonville. QB Cody Kessler will also help the Jags improve as he outperforms QB Blake Bortles.  QB Andrew Luck and his receivers will struggle to handle the Jags strong D, but they’ll still manage to score a couple TDs.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

QB Eli Manning will have to dig into New York’s WR depth here to even score a TD against this improving Chicago defense.  The Giants’ experienced defense will limit the QB Chase Daniel-led Bears offense, but Daniel will still throw multiple TDs in the victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers should manage to win at home here, but as they nearly blow it, the “fire Mike McCarthy” campaign will just get louder.  QB Aaron Rodgers will rely on his younger receivers as they just barely get by the Cardinals. QB Josh Rosen will find his receivers more easily against a struggling Green Bay secondary, but it won’t quite be enough.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Josh McCown should struggle regressively as his receivers are out done by a Titans secondary that is no more than average.  This will highlight the Jets’ flaws as the Titans win by multiple TD. A strong all-around offensive game as well as a clutch defensive performance will help Tennessee in the home win.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

The Chiefs won’t be at full strength after the release of RB Kareem Hunt.  But QB Patrick Mahomes II will still lead the Chiefs to victory though, with 3 TD and 0 INT.  The Raiders will come close though as QB Derek Carr relies on his younger receivers (since WR Jordy Nelson is struggling).
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Neither offense will be up to full speed here as both defenses thrive.  But QB Tom Brady will lead the Pats to get by at home as he uses his WR depth, something New England has at full health.  The Vikings will make this close, led by QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The Seahawks will be able to get by here, but the 49ers will come close to an upset and play the better all around game, as young QB Nick Mullens throws multiple TD against the young Seattle D.  The Seahawks, however, will find a way to win thanks to veteran QB Russell Wilson.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

The Steelers offense will look good here, as QB Ben Roethlisberger tosses multiple TD.  But even without RB Melvin Gordon, QB Philip Rivers and his deep WR corps will be too much for the Pittsburgh D to handle as they outperform the Steelers significantly.  The Chargers will be able to handle Pittsburgh’s offense a little easier, helping their case in a road primetime victory, handing the Steelers their second straight loss.
Sunday, 8:15 PM EST

Expect the Eagles to win in a shootout thanks to the strong game by QB Carson Wentz and his receivers.  QB Colt McCoy will outperform his expectations though, tossing multiple TD and making this close. But the Eagles will still get past McCoy’s Redskins as their run game thrives in addition to the pass offense.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 3 of my MLB free agent predictions.

 

2018 NFL Week 6 Picks & Previews: Expect Lots of High Scoring Games

Welcome to my Week 6 NFL pick’em and previews.  Last week I went 8-7, placing my overall record at 45-31-2, ahead of 7 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and 3 of CBS Sports’ 8 experts.  Some of the offense-heavy teams in the league take each other on this week. The Chiefs face off with the Patriots. The Raiders take on the Seahawks in London.  The Chargers will head to Cleveland to play the Browns. The Bucs and Falcons will play each other in an intriguing divisional match-up. Who will win in these likely shootouts?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

With WR Randall Cobb likely back, expect this Packers passing offense to perform a lot better than they did in Detroit, especially since they are home this week.  But it’s the run game that I see leading the Pack. These running backs haven’t really had the chance to truly shine in Green Bay’s pass-first offense, but I could see it happening against an inexperienced 49ers run defense.  Without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be extremely difficult for the Niners to match Green Bay’s offensive performance. I see the Packers winning easily.

Upset of the Week

This Broncos defense will make it difficult for the Rams to score as much as they usually do, but I think they manage to score 20+ points on Denver, led by RB Todd Gurley.  However, I expect Denver’s receivers to have a strong day as well, despite the fact that they are facing a stacked Rams secondary.  They have two dependable veterans in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a promising rookie, Courtland Sutton.  I think they can handle the Rams secondary, especially with ex-Bronco Aqib Talib on IR. Look for Denver to pull the upset in a game that’s surprisingly high scoring.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-13 Eagles)

Expect the Eagles run game to struggle with RB Jay Ajayi on IR.  But I think QB Carson Wentz and his receivers will find a way to win it in New York.  The Giants offense will struggle once again without TE Evan Engram, but I think WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will have strong games to make this close.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect Houston’s elite defense to shut down QB Josh Allen and his receivers.  I think they will hold the Bills to 1 TD or less in this game. Meanwhile, QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense will have a decent enough despite the banged-up run game and lack of WR depth.  I see the trio of Watson, RB Lamar Miller and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading them to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Colts offense should look better than they did in New England.  Expect RB Nyheim Hines to step it up with the receivers banged up. However, I see the Colts D, which has struggled all season falling apart against a promising Jets passing game.  Look for both QB Sam Darnold and RB Isaiah Crowell to have big games as the Jets score at least 4 TDs. New York should win easily with the Colts defense regressively struggling.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

UPDATE: Ryan Tannehill is OUT, Brock Osweiler will start

Look for the Dolphins young D to have success against QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense.  Their promising group of receivers will not be enough here as the run game struggles. I also think that with the home-field advantage, the Dolphins will manage to score 30+ points despite facing Khalil Mack and the Bears D.  With QB Ryan Tannehill out, QB Brock Osweiler will rely on his receivers as Mack and the Bears front seven shuts down the Dolphins run game.  In the end, I have the Dolphins pulling a surprising upset at home, thanks to an all-around elite performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Cincy’s receivers to step it up against a struggling Steelers secondary. But the Steelers will make this a close shootout. QB Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers will thrive as well against a rebuilding Bengals secondary.  But without RB Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers run game will be easily shut down. The Bengals will manage to win thanks to the strong run defense and strong game by their receivers.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns to make this close in Cleveland.  But this Chargers offense has dominated and led the team to victory against every below average defense they’ve played.  Look for QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen and company to do the same in Cleveland as they take on an inexperienced Browns D.  This stellar offensive performance will lead LA to victory for the fourth time this season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a shootout in this London game.  Both these defenses have struggled regressively all season.  Look for Oakland’s offense to dominate against the young Seattle D, and expect QB Russell Wilson and his receivers to have a field day against the Khalil Mack-less Raiders defense.  I think the Raiders, who will have more success running the ball, will outscore the Seahawks to win it.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Panthers offense to be back at full speed with TE Greg Olsen back.  They will be able to take advantage of a below average Redskins secondary with QB Cam Newton’s favorite target healthy.  QB Alex Smith and his receivers will put up a fight with a 3 TD game of their own.  But look for the Panthers strong front seven to be successful in pressuring Smith and shutting down Washington’s RBs, allowing Carolina to hold on for a victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think Arizona’s D will step it up this weekend, allowing them to come close in Minnesota.  But the Vikings WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs is just too much for this Cardinals secondary to handle, and their success will lead to an overtime Vikings win, despite the run game’s continuing struggles.  The Vikings defense will also have a nice game, holding the Cardinals to just 1 TD and overwhelming rookie QB Josh Rosen.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With RB Devonta Freeman out, both defenses struggling, and both offenses dominating, expect a lot of passing in this game.  QB Matt Ryan and his receivers should have a field day against the weakening Bucs secondary, while Tampa’s underrated front seven shuts down RB Tevin Coleman.  Meanwhile, QB Jameis Winston and his receivers will prove that the Bucs can succeed on offense without QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect them to pull the upset in a shootout, as Atlanta begins to lose hope after another embarrassingly bad defensive game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

This Titans roster is filled with young talent on both sides of the ball.  Look for their younger players to step it up and lead Tennessee to victory at home.  The Ravens should continue their strong season by getting out to an early lead thanks to shut down defense.  But Tennessee’s young core will lead to a comeback as they outplay Baltimore.  After two straight losses, the Ravens will begin to regress. 
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect QB Dak Prescott and his receivers to be shut down by a top notch Jags defense.  Prescott looked pretty bad against the Texans D. I can’t see him doing any better against Sacksonville.  Meanwhile, the Jaguars will manage to get by on offense, bouncing back from last week’s putrid offensive performance.  The combination of these two things will lead to a Jaguars victory, despite run game struggles without RB Leonard Fournette.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

Check back closer to gametime for a video preview!

Look for QB Tom Brady and his receivers to thrive, overwhelming the Chiefs secondary without S Eric Berry.  Kansas City’s offense should make this close, but expect the Chiefs defense to blow it despite a 30-point, multi-TD game for QB Patrick Mahomes II and his offense.  

That’s all for my picks this week.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more posts soon.

 

Red Sox @ Yankees May 8-10 2018: Series Preview

Image result for red sox-yankees

The Red Sox have had it easy in terms of their schedule over the last week and a half.  They played the Rays, Rangers, and Royals, taking 7 of 10 during that stretch.  But now they face the Yankees, who have won 15 of 16 against some of the AL’s best.  They swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and nearly swept Houston.  They have been boosted by the emergence of Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, and are doing fine without 1B Greg Bird.  How will they fare against Boston, the only AL team that still has a better record than the Yankees?  They will fight for not just the AL East crown, but the American League crown in this series.  They are arguably the two best teams in baseball right now, which makes this intense rivalry even better.

Previous 2018 Results

The Red Sox have already played the Yankees once this season at Fenway Park.  The Yankees had even more injury problems and did not have Gleyber in the majors back in mid-April when this series occurred.  Despite losing Xander Bogaerts to the DL shortly before the series, the Red Sox, who had started 8-1 due to spotless pitching and an easy schedule, took advantage.  They took 2 of 3 in the series.  The Red Sox lineup had dominated in Game 1 to bring the Sox a 14-1 win.  David Price had a rough Game 2 and left early with an injury.  But the Red Sox attempted to come back, and after Tyler Austin spiked the infielder sliding into 2nd, Joe Kelly got revenge when he hit Austin.  It ended in a bench-clearing brawl that got Kelly and Austin suspended.  Porcello continued a strong start in the 3rd game as the Red Sox won, 6-3.  I did a recap of that game when the Sox and Bruins won important games on the same night.

Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

 

How They Line-Up Now

Both teams have powerful, home-run hitting lineups.  But both of these lineups have a weak spot.  The Yankees have seen several hitters who are usually pretty good slump.  Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez all have a batting average under .230.  Sanchez is batting .198.  It is balanced out by strong seasons from Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge, as well as early success out of Andujar and Torres.  I was never too high on Gregorius, but he has really proven himself this year.   The Red Sox do not have reliable hitters at the end of the lineup.  Both regular catchers and JBJ are batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez has also struggled.  But J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Xander Bogaerts have all thrived and led this team.

The Red Sox have the starting pitching advantage, but not all of the pitching match-ups in this series are favorable for the Red Sox.  The Red Sox don’t have too much of a bullpen to rely on, either.  Craig Kimbrel has been flawless, but the rest of the bullpen has not always stepped it up when the starter struggles.  The Red Sox have to rely on either an offensive explosion or a spotless, long-lasting starter to win quality games.

Pitching Match-Ups

Game 1 (5/8): BOS: Image result for drew pomeranzDrew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14 ERA)

vs. NYY: Image result for luis severinoLuis Severino (5-1, 2.11)

By no means is Severino going to be easy to face but I could see Pomeranz stepping it up on the big stage here.  Once Severino leaves, it will be the offense’s turn to make an impact.

Note: Price has been scratched from his Wednesday start due to hand numbness.  I’m beginning to agree with that 98.5 caller who talked about the stress disorder with David Price.  Can he handle the pressure of a Red Sox-Yankees game?

Game 2 (5/9): BOS: Image result for rick porcello Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14 ERA)

NYY: Image result for MASAHIRO TANAKAMasahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39 ERA)

Tanaka has been pretty good this year, but Porcello has been flawless this year.  Moving him a day up brings this pitching match-up into our favor.

Game 3 (5/10): BOS: Image result for Eduardo Rodriguez Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA)

NYY: Image result for C.C. Sabathia C.C. Sabathia (2-0, 1.39 ERA)

I like Eduardo Rodriguez.  He has very high potential, but C.C. Sabathia has been great when healthy, and I’m wondering how E-Rod will perform under the pressure of Yankee Stadium.

My Prediction: Red Sox Take 2 of 3

 

 

Red Sox Report: Sox Slowing Down, But It’s Understandable

When the Red Sox began the season 17-2, I knew they would not be able to finish the season going at that pace.  So it is understandable that the Red Sox have gone 8-7 in their last 15 games.  It does not mean the Red Sox are a fluke.  They have still shown signs in the last 14 games that they are capable contenders.  But they cannot win every game, and 8 to 10-game winning streaks interrupted by just a loss or two is not realistic for any team to maintain.

Image result for mookie betts 3 hr games

But Mookie Betts is still on fire, and Hanley Ramirez has still put up much better numbers to start 2018.  J.D. Martinez has also begun to heat up.  Betts has gotten to the point in his hot streak where he’s breaking HR records.  We will look at Betts’ records, the cooling off of the Red Sox, and much more in this edition of the Red Sox Report.

Red Sox Beginning to Cool Off, But It’s Not a Major Concern

As I said above, although the Sox have cooled off, the Red Sox have still shown qualities of an elite playoff contender.  I still think they have the potential to make a deep run this year.  What concerns me a little bit is who they have been losing to.  They lost a series to the Rays to start their most recent homestand.  Tampa barely has a starting rotation.  But even a blind squirrel eventually finds an acorn.  They also struggled and got no-hit against the Athletics.  The A’s are not terrible, they have a powerful young lineup and an improving rotation.  But after a 17-2 start, I did not expect A’s SP Sean Manaea to no-hit the Red Sox.  It shows that our lineup is very streaky, feast or famine.

Struggles against the mediocre teams is a problem, but the Red Sox have been pretty good against tough opponents like the Angels and Blue Jays.  What the Red Sox need right now is to be competitive against playoff contenders.  If they continue to prove that they are capable of that, I will be much more confident in their World Series chances.  But if they cannot show up against subpar teams, how will they be able to continue to thrive against contenders?

Sox Lineup Has Been Streaky But Has High Ceiling

Image result for jd martinez redsox

The Red Sox lineup has really struggled at times. They have scored 3 or fewer runs in 4 of their 9 losses so far. But when the lineup is on a good streak, it can carry the team. At its best, this lineup could probably carry the Red Sox all the way to the World Series.  But several guys have failed to come through in recent weeks. Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez hasn’t looked like the same guy that boosted the Red Sox lineup on the brink of contention.  Everyone in this lineup has struggled at some point this season.

But when on a hot streak, this lineup can take the league by storm.  There were several hot hitters that led us to our amazing start, and a few of our hitters are still on fire.  J.D. Martinez is 21 for his last 47 (.447) and has hit 3 dingers in that span.  Mookie Betts has been on fire all season.  Read more about Betts’ hot streak in the next section.

Mookie Betts Still On Fire, Now He’s Making History

Image result for mookie betts 2018

Betts is batting .352 (5th in the league) with 13 home runs (leading the league) and a 1.257 OPS (leading the league) on the season.  In addition, he’s 12 for his last 23 (.522).   He has hit 11 of the homers in his last 15 games and has had two 3 HR games this season (one soon after Marathon Monday in Anaheim, and another at Fenway this week against the Royals).  It’s only the start of May, and he had these 3 HR games within two weeks of each other.  He also had a pair of 3 HR games back in 2016.  He and Johnny Mize are the only players to ever have a pair of 3 HR games two times in their career.

Betts also passed Ted Williams for the most 3-HR games in team history.  Betts is only 25.  He has plenty of time in his career for more multi-HR games.  Could he become the first person to have two 3-HR games in three different seasons?  Could he eventually break the MLB 3 HR game record?  It is currently held by Mize and Sammy Sosa (6).  Betts is in the Top 10 with 4.  Betts is tied for 2nd with Manny Machado for multi-HR games since 2016 (11).  Betts and Machado are behind just Giancarlo Stanton (14).  Betts is more than just our leadoff hitter.  He is one of baseball’s biggest stars.  But there is an argument for why he should remain our leadoff hitter, and I look at that in my next Baseball Bits.

Injury Report: Thornburg Begins Rehab, Several Activated Over Last Two Weeks

Image result for tyler thornburg

The Red Sox have continued to be hit by the injury bug.  Brock Holt went on the DL in late April with a hamstring strain.  Mookie Betts was also hurt for a few days in late April with hamstring issues but has since returned and continued to dominate.  He also left today’s game with a wrist injury.  But several of our previously injured players have returned over the last couple of weeks.  Xander Bogaerts was activated last weekend, and he lost his hot streak on the DL, but he went 3-4 in his first game back and has continued to hit well, batting .303 since his return.  Bobby Poyner has also returned from his injury but did not return to the big league roster until May 4th after a stint with the Paw Sox.

Steven Wright has returned from the DL too, but he is currently serving a 15-game domestic violence suspension.  Joe Kelly recently returned from his 6-game suspension after the Sox-Yankees brawl in April.  Eduardo Rodriguez was also out for a few days on a family medical leave but was activated on the 5th to start against the Rangers.  He did not miss a start during his absence.  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, and Dustin Pedroia are the players that remain on the DL.  Thornburg has begun his rehab assignment, and Pedroia has been rehabbing at extended spring training.  Pedey is targeting a May 25 big league return.  Brock Holt is expected to return next week.

Sox Have Caught a Break vs. Royals, Rangers, But Round 2 With Flaming Hot Yankees Ahead

Image result for red sox-royals 2018

After a tough road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed a relatively easy schedule over the last week and a half.  They have played the Rays, Royals, and Rangers.  Despite having a tough time against the Rays (who have won 11 of their last 14 on a hot streak), the Red Sox have caught a break against the Royals and Rangers, who they won 5 of 7 against.  But after that, the Red Sox could have another difficult stretch ahead, starting with a 3 game series at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15, and this was against playoff contenders.

The Yanks have swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and took 3 of 4 in Houston.  If the Yankees continue to thrive against Boston, they will be proven as serious contenders.  But Boston had an impressive 17-2 stretch of their own.  Although it may not have been against as difficult opponents, the Sox did take 2 out of 3 when they hosted the Yankees.  However, the Yankees were without C.C. Sabathia and Aaron Hicks in that series.  They have also called up Gleyber Torres, who has done very well since that series.  They have lost Jordan Montgomery and a couple relievers to the DL since the series though.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.