Tag Archives: Giants

MLB Weekly-ish: Pujols and the Dodgers make history, Harvey DFAed

Looking Back

Milestone games for Angels DH Albert Pujols and Dodgers pitchers, and the Mets designating a former ace for assignment highlight this week’s MLB Weekly.

Pujols began this season with 2,968 career hits and on Friday, in his 31st game of 2018, he recorded his 32nd hit of the season, making him the 32nd player in major league history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. The 40-year-old singled to right field off Mariners SP Mike Leake in the fifth inning of an Angels victory for hit No. 3,000. With 620 home runs on his ledger, he joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez as the only four members of the 3,000/600 club.

Pujols put up monster numbers in his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, totaling 2,073 hits and 445 home runs with a .328 average. But since signing with the Angels prior to the 2012 season, Pujols’ offensive output has slowed and he has transitioned from a two-time National League Gold Glove-winning first baseman to a designated hitter as age and injuries have caught up to him. Entering Sunday, his batting average with the Angels is .262, more than 60 points below what he hit with St. Louis. Despite the offensive downturn, Pujols still has some power, having hit 60 homers since the start of the 2016 season. The three-time NL MVP is signed with the Angels through the 2021 season.

Pujols is one of the longest-tenured active players in the majors, but it was a rookie Dodgers pitcher who had the spotlight on him Friday when the defending NL champs began a three-game series with the Padres in Monterrey, Mexico. SP Walker Buehler — making his third career MLB start — pitched the first six innings of what would be a six-pitcher combined no-hitter in a 4-0 Dodgers victory. Buehler struck out eight batters and issued three walks in his six innings of work before manager Dave Roberts took him out of the game after throwing 93 pitches. RPs Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore followed up Buehler’s performance by each throwing an inning, combining for five strikeouts and two walks in the final three innings of the game. Buehler has been impressive in the first three starts of his big-league career, recording a 1.13 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 16 innings, making him one of the few positives in what has been a disappointing start to the season for the Dodgers, who are 15-17 after finishing 2017 with a MLB-best 104 wins and falling a game short of winning the World Series.

It was the 23rd no-hitter in Dodgers history — 13th since moving to Los Angeles — but the first combined no-hitter for the team. It was the 12th combined no-hitter in MLB history and the first since six Mariners pitchers no-hit the Dodgers in June 2012. And it’s the second no-hitter of 2018 after A’s SP Sean Manaea threw a no-no against the Red Sox on April 22.

The news wasn’t so good for Matt Harvey on Friday. The Mets asked him to accept a demotion to the minors, which he refused. That led the team to designate him for assignment, giving the Mets 10 days to trade the pitcher, who was recently moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen, or release him. That ends Harvey’s time with the Mets after a tenure that began promising but had taken a downward turn in recent years, with injuries limiting his time on the field — including missing the entire 2014 season — and inconsistent performances when he did play.

Harvey’s ERA has steadily risen over the last three years, going from 2.71 in 2015 to 4.86 in 2016 and 6.70 last year. In eight appearances this season, including four starts, Harvey is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings. That compares to ERAs of 2.73 and 2.27 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The big injury news this week was Dodgers SS Corey Seager suffering a season-ending UCL strain that will require him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Other notable players hitting the DL in the past week include: Padres OF Wil Myers (oblique), Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig (hip) and SP Hyun-Jin Ryu (groin), Phillies SS J.P. Crawford (forearm), Blue Jays OFs Randal Grichuk (knee) and Steve Pearce (oblique), Diamondbacks SP Robbie Ray (oblique), Rockies 2B DJ LeMahieu (hamstring), Twins 3B Miguel Sano (hamstring) and C Jason Castro (knee), Angels RP Keynan Middleton (elbow) and SP Nick Tropeano (shoulder), Giants SP Johnny Cueto (elbow), Yankees SP Jordan Montgomery (elbow), Brewers SP Zach Davies (rotator cuff), Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (hamstring), Braves SS Dansby Swanson (wrist) and White Sox 2B Yoan Moncada (hamstring).

The Week Ahead

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The featured series this week is the return of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. They’re meeting for three games in the Bronx starting Tuesday, at a time when they have the two best records in the American League. The Indians visit the Brewers for two games starting Tuesday, and the Rockies and Angels have a two-game set in Denver in a couple of series involving playoff hopefuls. Later in the week, the White Sox head to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs starting Friday for this season’s first installment of the annual Windy City Series. The NL West-leading Diamondbacks host the disappointing Nationals for four games starting Thursday, and the Rockies host the Brewers for a four-game start beginning Thursday.

Some pitching performances to look for this week include Twins SP Fernando Romero looking to follow up his MLB debut with another good start Monday when he takes on the Cardinals and SP John Gant. The next day, SP Carlos Martinez takes the ball for St. Louis as he looks to improve upon his 3-1 start with a strong 1.40 ERA when he opposes Twins SP Jake Odorizzi. Mariners SP James Paxton recorded a career-high 16 strikeouts last time out, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance Tuesday against the Blue Jays and SP Marcus Stroman. Indians ace Corey Kluber also starts Tuesday, against Brewers SP Wade Miley, while Cubs SP Yu Darvish continues to look for his first win as a Cub; his next shot comes Tuesday against the Marlins, led by SP Jose Urena. Like Paxton, Astros SP Gerrit Cole is coming off a 16-strikeout performance; he’s set to get the ball again on Wednesday at the A’s. Buehler is scheduled to make his next start for the Dodgers at home Thursday, taking on the Reds.

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MLB Weekly-ish: Surprising teams, injuries mark the start of the season

Looking Back

We’re a couple weeks into the 2018 MLB season with most teams having played about 15 games thus far and there are a number of teams that are surprising people by their performances — both good and bad — and some star players are dealing with injuries in this season’s first edition of MLB Weekly.

Taking a look at the standings entering Sunday, the Mets — who are coming off a 70-92 season — are coming out of the gate strong with the best record in the National League and leading the NL East at 11-2. The Nationals, who were the favorites to win the division, sit in fourth place with a 7-8 mark. The Mets’ struggles last season were caused by injuries, with the starting rotation hit particularly hard, so they were expected to have a better season this year assuming health. Through two weeks, their pitchers haven’t dealt with injuries, but C Travis d’Arnaud will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will end his season, and backup C Kevin Plawecki is also on the DL with a broken hand that is expected to keep him out of action for a few weeks. Apart from SP Zack Wheeler, who has a 1.29 ERA in his only start, none of the Mets’ starters have a sub-3.00 ERA but only SP Matt Harvey, who has the worst injury history of the group, has posted an ERA above 4.00 with a 3.60 ERA in his first two starts, but that should get better if he can stay healthy for the first time since 2015.

There’s also an unexpected team at the top of the standings in the NL Central, with the 10-4 Pirates 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Cardinals and the improved Brewers. The Cubs — who have won the division each of the last two seasons — are in fourth place at 7-7. After trading their best pitcher (SP Gerrit Cole) and hitter (OF Andrew McCutchen), the Pirates were thought to be in rebuilding mode and not expected to be competitive in the division in 2018. They are getting production, though, from two of the hitters they added this winter: OF Corey Dickerson, who they acquired in a trade with the Rays, is hitting .347 with 10 RBI and a couple of steals while 3B Colin Moran, who came over from the Astros in the Cole trade, is hitting .316 with 8 RBI in his first 11 games with the team. A couple of young pitchers have had terrific starts to their seasons, with SP Jameson Taillon posting a 0.890ERA with 18 strikeouts in his first three starts and SP Trevor Williams with a 1.56 ERA and 10 strikeouts in three starts.

In the American League, the Angels and Red Sox were both expected to be in the playoff picture this season but not many people expected them to get off to the kinds of starts they they have. The 12-2 Red Sox have been getting it done on the mound, with the second-lowest ERA in the American League. They’ve also been getting offensive production out of SS Xander Bogaerts — who is currently on the DL — and OFs Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, who are all hitting .353 or better. For the Angels, the much-hyped Shohei Ohtani has shown his subpar spring training performance was a fluke and has gotten off to a hot start both at the plate and on the mound. He’s hitting .367 with 3 home runs and 11 games in eight games as a DH and has posted a 2.08 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 13 innings in his first two starts of the season. OF Mike Trout, a perennial MVP candidate, is having the type of season people have come to expect from him with 6 home runs in his first 16 games.

It’s not good news for every team, though. The Cubs are one of the bigger disappointments early in the season at .500. That is due in large part to their pitching. Of their five starters, only SP Kyle Hendricks has a sub-4.00 ERA, and it’s not overly impressive at 3.71. SP Yu Darvish, who the Cubs signed to a big contract this winter despite his struggles in the postseason, has a 6.00 ERA in three starts. The Yankees, who were a game away from making the World Series in 2017, are also 7-7 as they sit in third place in the AL East, but the biggest disappointment early in 2018 is the Dodgers. Coming off their first World Series appearance since 1988, the Dodgers are just 4-9 and 6.5 games out of first in the NL West. Part of that is because 3B Justin Turner started the season on the DL and has yet to play in a game, but they’re not getting much out of SS Corey Seager, who hit .293 last season but is at .196 entering Sunday. The starting pitching is a mixed bag, with Clayton Kershaw sitting at a 1.89 ERA but SP Alex Wood posting a 5.09 ERA and SP Rich Hill at a 6.00 ERA. Closer Kenley Jansen is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA and a couple of saves in his first six appearances of the season.

The first couple weeks of the season haven’t been kind to teams in terms of injuries, with the list of players currently on the DL including: Angels SP Matt Shoemaker; Rangers OF Delino Deshields, SS Elvis Andrus and 2B Rougned Odor; Phillies SP Jerad Eickhoff; Blue Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki and 3B Josh Donaldson; Giants SPs Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and RP Mark Melancon; Indians SP Danny Salazar; Royals C Salvador Perez; Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia; Marlins C J.T. Realmuto; Yankees 1B Greg Bird, SP CC Sabathia and 3B Brandon Drury; White Sox SP Carlos Rodon; Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy and OF Adam Eaton; Pirates SP Joe Musgrove; Mariners DH Nelson Cruz; Diamondbacks 3B Jake Lamb; Padres OFs Wil Myers and Manuel Margot; Brewers SP Jimmy Nelson, RP Corey Knebel and OF Christian Yelich; and Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo.

The Week Ahead

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The Angels and Red Sox are the best teams in the American League right now, and they begin a three-game series in Anaheim on Tuesday after the Red Sox host the Orioles Monday in their traditional 11am start on Patriots’ Day. The Astros begin a weeklong road trip on Monday with the first of four at the division-rival Mariners in Seattle. The classic Cubs-Cardinals rivalry gets going for three games at Wrigley starting Monday, and longtime Yankee SS Derek Jeter brings the team he now co-owns, the Marlins, to Yankee Stadium for a two-game interleague series Monday and Tuesday. Over in Queens, the Mets look to keep their hot start going with a three-game series against the Nationals starting Monday. Later in the week, the Cubs visit the Rockies starting Friday in a series between two teams that made the playoffs last season but haven’t begun 2018 the way they would have liked. And the Dodgers look to get things going when they host the Nationals over the weekend.

In some pitching performances to look out for this week, Astros SP Dallas Keuchel looks to lock down his first win of the season Monday when he faces SP James Paxton and the Mariners. Sabathia is scheduled to come off the DL to get the start Tuesday in the Yankees’ second game against the Marlins. Wednesday sees Cole take the mound for his fourth start for the Astros as he looks to continue his streak of double-digit strikeout performances against Mariners SP Mike Leake. And there are aces scheduled to be dueling in Southern California Saturday night with Ohtani scheduled to start for the Angels and a pitching matchup of Stephen Strasburg and Kershaw on the docket for the Nationals-Dodgers game Saturday.

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My NFL Picks Week 17: Playoff spots up for grabs, Browns look to avoid 0-16 (Updated)

It’s the final week of the 2017 NFL regular season, which means some teams are still battling for the final playoff spots, others are just playing out meaningless games, and the Browns are trying to avoid becoming just the second team in league history to go 0-16. Seven of the eight division titles have been wrapped up — only the NFC South remains in contention, along with both AFC wild cards and one wild card in the NFC. The teams that have not clinched a spot in the postseason but remain in the hunt are the Titans, Ravens, Chargers and Bills in the AFC and the Falcons and Seahawks vying for the final NFC berth.

As usual in Week 17, some teams with nothing to play for will either not play their key players or only play them for part of the game. The Chiefs have already announced QB Alex Smith will sit out and rookie QB Patrick Mahomes will make his first career start, and the Rams have said a number of starters, including QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, will not play in their season finale. That makes picking games more difficult than usual this week, especially with teams like the Jaguars who are looked into their playoff seed but claim they’re still going to play to win this week. I went 6-10 last week, giving me an overall record of 123-117 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Sunday 1PM games

Bears at Vikings (-12.5) – The Vikings, who are coming off a shutout of the Packers, are currently the NFC’s No. 2 seed, but could fall out of that spot — and the accompanying first-round bye — this week, so they’ll likely play their starters this week. But I think the spread could be a bit much because the Bears have a pretty good defense. I’ll take the points.

Browns at Steelers (-14.5) The 0-15 Browns need to beat the Steelers to avoid joining the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history. I don’t think that’s going to happen, it’s just a question of how much the Steelers win by. The Steelers are locked into the No. 2 seed but could still move up to No. 1 and get home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win and a Patriots loss. If the Patriots get a big lead on the Jets and look like they’re on pace to win by halftime, the Steelers could pull their starters in the second half, which would limit their scoring potential so I’m going to take the points.
(Update: There are reports that OL Marcus Gilbert has said that QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le’Veon Bell will not play in the game. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t change my pick of taking the points with Cleveland.)

Cowboys at Eagles (+2.5) – The Eagles locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC when they beat the Raiders Monday night, which means they’ll probably put their backups in at some point during the game — if the likes of QB Nick Foles and RB Jay Ajayi play at all. The offense didn’t even look good on Monday with them playing, so I think the Cowboys have a pretty good chance to win the game. I’ll give the points.

Packers at Lions (-7.5)The Packers couldn’t score last week against the Vikings. The Lions defense isn’t as good but Packers QB Brett Hundley isn’t good. The Lions lost to the Bengals last week, but they should be able to beat the Packers and I’ll give the points.

Texans at Colts (-3.5) – Both of these teams have had disappointing seasons but the Texans have the best offensive player in the game with WR DeAndre Hopkins, so I’ll take the points. (Update: There are reports that Hopkins is not expected to play, but even if he sits I still think the Texans will be able to stay within a field goal, if not win outright, so I’ll keep my original pick.)

Jets at Patriots (-15.5) The Patriots need to win this game so clinch the top seed in the AFC, which they should do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sit some of their starters late in the game, so I’ll take the points.

Redskins at Giants (+3.5) The Redskins and Giants have both been plagued by injuries this season but the Redskins seem to be handling it better. The Giants were shut out by the Cardinals last week and I don’t see them keeping this game very close. The most notable aspect of the game for the Giants is the possibility that it will be Eli Manning’s last start with the team. I’ll go with the Redskins.

Sunday 4PM games

Panthers at Falcons (-3.5) – The Panthers have already punched their ticket to the postseason and have a chance at winning the NFC South with a win and a Saints loss. They also have a shot at the No. 2 seed with a win and help. The Falcons are currently the No. 6 seed with a wild card but need to win to hold off the Seahawks, who would overtake them with a win if the Falcons lose. That means both teams are playing for something, but it’s more critical for the Falcons to get a victory. They’re at home, but I think the Panthers are the better team. I’ll take the points.

Bills at Dolphins (+2.5) – The Bills are on the outside looking in for their first playoff berth since 1999. They need a win and a Ravens loss, or other help, to get into the postseason. They’re facing a relatively easy game against the Dolphins and I think they should be able to win by about a touchdown, so I’ll give the points on the road.

Bengals at Ravens (-9.5) – The Ravens are currently the fifth seed and just need to win to clinch a spot in the playoffs. If they lose, losses by Bills or Titans would also get them in. They shouldn’t need that help, though, as I think they beat the Bengals, but I don’t think they’ll win by double digits so I’m giving the points.

Chiefs at Broncos (-3.5)- With the news that the Chiefs, who are the AFC West champions and locked in as the No. 4 seed, starting Mahomes at quarterback, you have to wonder how much their other stars — such as RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce — will play in the last game of the regular season. That gives the Broncos a better chance to win the game, but I’m still not sure they’ll be able to do it. If they do win, it probably won’t be a big margin of victory so I’ll take the points with the playoff-bound squad.

Jaguars at Titans (-5.5) – The Jaguars continue to say they’ll play to win on Sunday despite  being locked into the third seed, but given the line the oddsmakers aren’t believing them. I believe the jags will play their starters for at least the first half, which I think would be enough to win the game. Give me the points.

Raiders at Chargers (-7.5)The Chargers need a win (or tie) and help to sneak into the playoffs, and they’re playing a Raiders team with nothing to play for that didn’t have much offense on Monday night. One concern for the Chargers is the availability of RB Melvin Gordon, who suffered an ankle injury on Sunday but says he’s ready to go this week. I think the Chargers win and it probably won’t be that close.

49ers at Rams (-3.5) – The Rams can’t improve their playoff positioning beyond their current No. 3 seed and have already said that Goff, Gurley and DT Aaron Donald are among their starters who will sit for the finale, so they are clearly treating it as a preseason-type game. With the way the 49ers have played since installing Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback, and with QB Sean Mannion getting the start for the Rams, I expect the 49ers to give the Rams outright so I’m taking the points.

Saints at Buccaneers (+7.5) – The Saints simply need  a win (or Panthers loss) to clinch the division title, and I expect them to get it easily. I’ll give the points.

Cardinals at Seahawks (-8.5) The Seahawks need a win (or tie), combined with a Falcons loss, to earn a playoff spot. I think both of these will happen, and I don’t expect the Cardinals-Seahawks game to be that close so I’ll give the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 16: Zeke returns, Falcons-Saints battle in the NFC South

The penultimate week of the regular season in the NFL has an underwhelming slate of games after last week’s schedule had a number of featured matchups. The best game of the week looks to be the NFC South battle between the Falcons and Saints, as the visiting team is a game out of first place in the division. The Cowboys are among the teams looking to win to stay alive with their slim playoff hopes, and they get RB Ezekiel Elliott back after he has finished serving his six-game suspension. There’s an unusual schedule this week with the Christmas holiday. There’s no Thursday game and there are doubleheaders on both Saturday and Monday, with no Sunday night game due to Christmas Eve. I went 7-9 last week, giving me an overall record of 117-107 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Saturday games

Colts at Ravens (-13.5) – This is a surprisingly large spread for a Ravens team that doesn’t have a great offense. They did win by more than I thought last week against the Browns, but the Colts aren’t the Browns. I have a hard time picking a Joe Flacco-led offense to win by two touchdowns, so I’ll take the Colts and the points, but I expect the Ravens to win the game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Vikings at Packers (+6.5) The Falcons’ win on Monday Night Football eliminated the Packers from playoff contention, and with that the team decided to shut QB Aaron Rodgers down for the season and placed him on IR. That means QB Brett Hundley is back as the starter for the last two games of the season. With that in mind, the Packers probably won’t score many points against a good Vikings defense. At 11-3, the Vikings are battling for the top seed in the NFC, and they should beat their division rivals to stay alive in that race. I’ll give the points on the road.

Sunday 1PM games

Falcons at Saints (-5.5) – The Falcons need to win this game to try to stay alive in the race for the NFC South as they currently sit a game behind both the Saints and Panthers, who are tied for the division lead. I don’t think the Falcons will be able to keep up with the Saints’ offense, led by QB Drew Brees and RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, enough to win the game. I do think they’ll keep it close, though, so I’ll take the points but the Saints win the game.

Bills at Patriots (-12.5)The Patriots hold the top seed in the AFC after the thrilling win against the Steelers on Sunday. Now they hit the road for a divisional game against the Bills, who are desperate for a win as they try to hold on to the No. 6 seed in the conference. I don’t think the game will be a blowout, but the it’s hard to go against the Tom BradyRob Gronkowski combo on the Pats. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor isn’t good enough, so it’ll have to be RB LeSean McCoy to lead the way, and I don’t think that’ll be enough to pull off the upset. Patriots win, but I’m taking the points again.

Browns at Bears (-6.5)The Browns have just two more chances to avoid becoming the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16. With the Steelers looming in Week 17, this could be the Browns’ last realistic chance to get a win. I don’t like their chances, though. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer doesn’t look like he’s getting better as the season progresses. I think the Bears will win and cover, though I’m not confident about that part.

Lions at Bengals (+4.5) It seems like the Bengals have given up on the season, coming off of back-to-back losses of 33-7 and 34-7. I’m expecting another blowout here and am surprised the spread is as low as it is. I think the Lions win by double digits.

Broncos at Redskins (-3.5) Both of these teams have had disappointing seasons, but the Broncos have been the worse of the two. Their defense has not been good lately and they don’t seem to know yet who will start at quarterback this week, Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch. I’ll go with Kirk Cousins and the Redskins.

Rams at Titans (+6.5) – The Rams are coming off of a blowout win against the Seahawks, and I don’t think the Titans are much better than the Seahawks so I don’t know why this game would be much different. Titans QB Marcus Mariota may be the most disappointing player in the league this season. I expect Rams RB Todd Gurley to have another big game like he did last week. Rams win big.

Dolphins at Chiefs (-10.5) – The Chiefs seem to be back to playing the way they were early in the season when they were 5-0, as opposed to how they played during their midseason swoon. Facing a Dolphins team led by QB Jay Cutler, I don’t think this game will be that close, and WR Tyreek Hill and RB Kareem Hunt will lead the way for the Chiefs as they look to potentially wrap up the AFC West this week.

Chargers at Jets (+6.5) – The Chargers are on the fringe of playoff contention but need significant help to get over the edge. Bryce Petty is the Jets’ starting quarterback, which is why I’m taking PHilip Rivers and the Chargers to do their part and win the game — and cover — but I don’t think they’ll still be alive for the postseason by the end of the weekend.

Buccaneers at Panthers (-9.5)- Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston had his best game in a while on Monday, dropping a close one to the Falcons. I think Winston and WR Mike Evans can keep it close again this week when they take on the Panthers, but I think the Panthers win. TE Greg Olsen looked like himself in Week 15 as he continues to work his way back from injury, which gives QB Cam Newton another offensive weapon. Panthers win, but the Bucs cover.

Sunday 4PM games

Jaguars at 49ers (+4.5) – QB Jimmy Garoppolo has played well in the games he’s played for the 49ers this season, but he faces perhaps his biggest test yet against the Jaguars, who have one of the best defenses in the league. Last week, the Jaguars clinched their first playoff berth in a decade, but they still have something to play for because they can earn a first-round bye if things go in their favor. RB Leonard Fournette looks like he will play after missing last week’s game. I’m going with the Jags.

Seahawks at Cowboys (-4.5)The Seahawks are coming off a bad loss to the Rams, while the Cowboys held on to beat the Raiders last week and now get Elliott back from his suspension as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive. With Elliott, who could get a heavy workload, back I think the Cowboys will win this one fairly easily. I’ll give the points.

Giants at Cardinals (-4.5) – The Giants offense came alive last week, with QB Eli Manning throwing for more than 400 yards, while Blaine Gabbert had a forgettable game for the Cardinals and is being replaced by Drew Stanton this week. Overall, neither team has been good this season so I’ll go with their most recent performances and take the points, though I think the Cardinals could eke out the win at home.

Christmas games

Steelers at Texans (+9.5)The Steelers will be without WR Antonio Brown this week after he injured his calf in the team’s nailbiter against the Patriots on Sunday. That could be a blow to the offense if WRs Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster can’t make up for Brown’s lost production. It could also lead the team to lean more on RB Le’Veon Bell than if Brown was healthy. I expect the Steelers to win the game, but I think the spread may be too high since the Steelers tend to play down to their competition when they’re facing an inferior team. Give me the points. 

Raiders at Eagles (-8.5) – Eagles QB Nick Foles played well in his first game starting in place of Carson Wentz on Sunday, but I need to see him do it again before I truly buy into him being able to play like that again. I’m going to go with the Raiders to cover, but the Eagles should win the game.

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My NFL Picks Week 15: Rodgers returns, Patriots battle Steelers for AFC supremacy

The game of the week looks to be the Patriots visiting the Steelers in the late afternoon slot on Sunday. They are probably the two best teams in the AFC, and the Patriots are going to be looking to bounce back from the loss they suffered against the Dolphins on Monday night.  Other games of note on the Week 15 slate include the Rams heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in a game for first in the NFC West and the Cowboys visiting the Raiders on Sunday night as those teams look to hold on to their slim playoff hopes. We also get our first Saturday games of the season, with a doubleheader. I went 6-10 last week, giving me an overall record of 110-98 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Broncos at Colts (+2.5) – The week begins with the Peyton Bowl, as Peyton Manning‘s former teams play each other. Neither quarterback in the game — Trevor Siemian for the Broncos and the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett — is in the same class as Manning. I trust the Broncos’ offense more than the Colts’, so I’ll give the points to start the week.

Saturday games

Bears at Lions (-5.5) – The Bears are coming off what was probably their best game of the season last week, a 33-7 victory against the Bengals, but you can’t expect that kind of offense out of QB Mitch Trubisky every week. Obviously the Lions have the better pass-thrower in Matthew Stafford, but they’ve had some issues in the run game, with RB Ameer Abdullah having missed the last two games. The Bears have a decent defense, which I think will be able to keep it a close game. I think the Lions win,but I’m taking the points with the Bears.

Chargers at Chiefs (+1.5) – First place in the AFC West is on the line as these 7-6 teams meet. The Chiefs finally won a game last week after an extended losing streak while the Chargers are on a four-game winning streak. Part of the reason for the Chiefs’ win last week was rookie RB Kareem Hunt having his best game in several weeks, and he’ll likely need a repeat performance this week because QB Alex Smith can’t be trusted right now. I think Chargers QB Philip Rivers will do well enough to get his team the win.

Sunday 1PM games

Dolphins at Bills (-2.5) – There is a question about who will draw the start at quarterback for the Bills this week, with it looking like it could be Joe Webb. If that’s the case, it would hurt the BIlls’ chances of beating a Dolphins team coming off a win over the Patriots. I think Dolphins QB Jay Cutler is better than whoever is going to start for the Bills, and RB Kenyan Drake is looking like a viable starter for Miami, so I’ll take the points with the visitors.

Bengals at Vikings (-10.5)The Bengals were on the short end of a blowout loss against the Bears last week and face a tougher test this week against the Vikings, who lost to the Panthers on Sunday. I don’t like giving more than 10 points, but the Bengals look like they may have given up on the rest of the season, so I’ll give the points.

Ravens at Browns (+7.5)The Browns had their best chance yet last week to pick up their first win of the season. They were leading the Packers most of the way but ultimately lost in overtime. I don’t think they’ll have such a lengthy lead in this game, but I think they’ll keep it close because I don’t like the Ravens’ offense that much. The Browns likely drop to 0-14 this week, but I’ll take the points.

Packers at Panthers (+0.5) This could be an interesting game for the Packers as QB Aaron Rodgers is expected to action after missing the last several games with a collarbone injury. If he plays, I think the Packers win. If it’s Brett Hundley under center for some reason, I would expect the Panthers to win.

Jets at Saints (-15.5) – After QB Josh McCown suffered a season-ending wrist injury on Sunday, the Jets are expected to start Bryce Petty, which is likely one reason why there’s such a big spread on this game. The Saints should win easily, but I’m taking the points. I think the Jets can stay within two touchdowns.

Eagles at Giants (+7.5)The Eagles also suffered a season-ending injury at quarterback on Sunday when MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL. That leaves QB Nick Foles as the starter heading into hostile territory on the road against the Giants. QB Eli Manning started again last week, but he didn’t look good. But who knows how Foles will perform in his first start of the season. I still think the Eagles win the game, but I’ll take the points.

Cardinals at Redskins (-4.5) Both of these teams have had disappointing seasons and neither offense has been great this week, but Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is better than Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert, which I think will be the difference in the game. I’ll go with the Redskins.

Texans at Jaguars (-11.5)QB T.J. Yates will start for the Texans after Tom Savage suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. When these teams met in Week 1, the Jaguars won in a blowout — and that was with Deshaun Watson playing in the second half. With Yates under center for the Texans, I don’t think this game will be close. I’ll give the points.

Sunday 4PM games

Rams at Seahawks (-2.5) – First place in the division is on the line in this match, with QB Jared Goff and the Rams facing a Seahawks defense depleted by injuries. I expect this to be a close game, but I think the Rams can pull out the win.

Titans at 49ers (-1.5) – 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has done well in his first two starts with the team, but the team around him still isn’t great. While Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been struggling of late, I think he’ll be able to lead the team to a victory so I’ll take the points.

Patriots at Steelers (+2.5) This seems like the game of the year in the AFC, with the winning squad getting the inside track on the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Patriots are coming off a Monday night loss to the Dolphins, but they’ll have TE Rob Gronkowski back after he was suspended for that game. The Steelers have one of the best offenses in the league, though, with QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell. I’m expecting a pretty high-scoring game, with the home team winning.

Sunday Night Football

Cowboys at Raiders (+2.5) – Both teams are hanging on to playoff contention to a thread and a loss could kill either team’s chances of making it to the postseason. I think the Cowboys, who are slated to get RB Ezekiel Elliott back in Week 16, are the better team of late and should win the game.

Monday Night Football

Falcons at Buccaneers (+6.5) – The Falcons are trying to hold on to the No. 6 seed in the NFC, and a win over the Buccaneers would help them fend off the likes of the Cowboys and Packers. I think Atlanta can beat the disappointing Tampa Bay team so it becomes a question of whether they’ll win by a touchdown or better. I think it’ll be close, but I’m giving the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 14: Eagles face the Rams in a battle of NFC elites

For the second straight week, there are some big games in the NFC playoff picture in Week 14. It starts on Thursday night with the Saints visiting the Falcons, and it continues Sunday with the Eagles looking to bounce back from their loss to the Seahawks to take on the Rams in Los Angeles. Other games of note include the Panthers hosting the Vikings and a Sunday night AFC North matchup between the Ravens and Steelers in Pittsburgh. I went 9-7 last week, giving me an overall record of 104-88 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Saints at Falcons (+0.5) – The Saints offense continues to roll with rookie RB Alvin Kamara making his case to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He is providing a boost to future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. For the Falcons,’WR Julio Jones had a fairly quiet game last week after a strong performance in Week 12. I expect the Saints to win, so I’ll take them in what is essentially a pick ’em.

Sunday 1PM games

Colts at Bills (-3.5) – With QB Tyrod Taylor having suffered an injury last week, Nathan Peterman will be under center for the Bills this week, which didn’t go well last time he started. Given Peterman’s poor performance a few weeks ago, I don’t expect the Bills to score a lot of points so Colts QB Jacoby Brissett should be able to keep his team in the game. The Bills may win the game, but I’m taking the points.

Bears at Bengals (-6.5)The Bengals came close to beating the Steelers on Monday night, but RB Joe Mixon left the game early with an injury and may miss this week’s game with the Bears. That shouldn’t prevent the Bengals from winning the game, however.

Packers at Browns (+3.5) – This could be Brett Hundley‘s last start as the Packers’ quarterback before Aaron Rodgers‘ potential return in Week 15. If this is Hunley’s last game, he has a relatively easy opponent in the 0-12 Browns. Browns WR Josh Gordon had a good performance in his return from his lengthy suspension last week, but he won’t be enough to help the Browns pick up their first win. I’m giving the points.

Cowboys at Giants (+4.5) – The Giants’ soap opera continued this week with the firing of head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese. Eli Manning will return to the starting quarterback role after Geno Smith played last week. For the Cowboys, RB Alfred Morris had a big week last week. If he can follow it up with another 100-yard performance, it’ll help the Cowboys pick up a much-needed win. I’ll take the road team.

Lions at Buccaneers (+3.5) – Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston performed well in his return to the field in Week 13 but he has a tough task ahead of him to keep up with the Lions offense led by QB Matthew Stafford. I think the Lions win the game but the Bucs keep it close so I’ll take the points.

Raiders at Chiefs (-3.5) This is an important game in the AFC West race, particularly for the Chiefs, who have gone 1-6 since their 5-0 start to the season. Chiefs QB Alex Smith has regressed in recent weeks and if the Chiefs fall out of the playoff picture, they may choose to get a look at backup QB Patrick Mahomes. This game could go either way so I’ll take the points with the Raiders, who I’m also picking to win the game outright.

Vikings at Panthers (+2.5) – The Vikings are looking to stay alive in the race for the top seed in the conference as QB Case Keenum leads them into Charlotte to take on the Panthers and QB Cam Newton, who faces a tough test against a Vikings defense that ranks among the best in the NFL. I think the Vikings D will be too much for the Panthers to overcome and the Vikes will pick up their 11th win of the season. I’ll give the points.

49ers at Texans (-2.5)49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo did well in his first start for the team last week and he’ll try to follow that up with another good game against the Texans. He’s going against a better opposing quarterback than last week, though, in Tom Savage, who has improved in recent weeks compared to when he first took over as the starter when Deshaun Watson suffered his season-ending injury several weeks ago. I think the Texans win the game and cover at home.

Sunday 4PM games

Jets at Broncos (+0.5) – The Broncos have lost their last eight games and now face a Jets team that is looking for a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Jets QB Josh McCown has had some good games in the last few weeks and I think he’ll be able to continue that streak this week against a Broncos defense that has regressed of late. I’ll go with the Jets on the road.

Titans at Cardinals (+2.5) – I don’t think the Titans are as good as their 8-4 record would indicate they are, with QB Marcus Mariota having a down year. The Cardinals, however, are beset by injuries that are forcing QB Blaine Gabbert to continue to start and RB Adrian Peterson is expected to miss another game due to injury. The Cardinals offense just isn’t very good as it currently stands, aside from WR Larry Fitzgerald, so I have to go with the Titans.

Redskins at Chargers (-6.5) – The Chargers are trying to keep pace in the three-way race for the AFC West title against a Redskins team that will again be without oft-injured TE Jordan Reed. I think the Chargers win the game, but I think it’ll be relatively close so I’ll go with the Redskins to cover.

Eagles at Rams (-2.5) – The Eagles stayed on the West Coast after last week’s loss to the Seahawks to avoid having to take two cross-country flights this week, which they hope benefits them in this game between two teams hoping to get first-round byes in the NFC playoffs. i think the Eagles are a slightly better team and I trust Carson Wentz a little more than Jared Goff at quarterback, so I think the Eagles will win the game outright. Given that, I’m taking the points on the road.

Seahawks at Jaguars (-2.5) – The Jaguars will have to be at the top of their game to win this game because Jacksonville’s offense can’t match up with the Seahawks. Despite some notable injuries, the Seahawks still have a decent offense that will likely be able to shut down Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, leaving it up to RB Leonard Fournette to lead the offensive attack. I don’t think he’ll be able to do enough to get the win for his team. Seahawks win outright so I’ll take the points again.

Sunday Night Football

Ravens at Steelers (-5.5) – The games in this divisional rivalry are usually close and the Steelers almost lost on Monday night so the Bengals, who aren’t as good as the Ravens, so I expect this game to be decided by about a field goal or so. I’m taking the Ravens, but I think the Steelers win the game.

Monday Night Football

Patriots at Dolphins (+11.5) The Patriots will be without TE Rob Gronkowski on Monday night as he serves a one-game suspension for a late hit in last week’s game, which puts the offense at a disadvantage. QB Tom Brady still has some good targets to throw to, including WR Brandin Cooks, and the Patriots should still win the game even without Gronk. On the road in Miami, though, I think 11.5 is too many points so I’ll take the points with the Dolphins.

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My NFL Picks Week 13: Two of the NFC’s best teams meet when the Eagles visit the Seahawks

There are some big games scheduled for this week in the NFC with playoff contenders playing each other, with the Vikings visiting the Falcons, the Saints hosting the Panthers and the Eagles meeting the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. The week starts, however, with a matchup of disappointing NFC East teams when the Cowboys host the Redskins. I went 7-9 last week, giving me an overall record of 95-81 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Redskins at Cowboys (-1.5) – It’s surprising to see the Cowboys favored in this game. They have failed to score more than nine points in each of their last three games, and the Dallas offense has not looked good without RB Ezekiel Elliott, who is in the midst of serving his six-game suspension. Even though it’s a Thursday game, neither team is on a short week because both teams played on Thanksgiving so being on the road midweek shouldn’t be an issue for the Redskins. I expect Washington to win outright, so I’ll take the points.

Sunday 1PM games

Vikings at Falcons (-2.5) – The Vikings take a seven-game win streak into Atlanta to take on the defending NFC champion Falcons, who haven’t been the same team this season. The Vikings offense has performed well behind QB Case Keenum, but the defense has also played a big role in the team’s success this season. On the other side, Falcons WR Julio Jones had his best game of the year, with a 253-yard, two-touchdown performance. The teams are pretty evenly matched, but I think the Vikings may be slightly better so I’ll take the points.

Patriots at Bills (+8.5) – Tyrod Taylor is back at quarterback for the Bills, but that won’t help them much against the Patriots, with QB Tom Brady leading the offense and a strong defense. I expect the Patriots to win big so I’ll take,the road team.

49ers at Bears (-3.5) – The 49ers have announced that QB Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first start for the team, which is a difficult task against a pretty good Bears defense. The Bears offense, on the other hand, has struggled this season behind QB Mitch Trubisky. With Garoppolo getting the start for the 49ers, though, I think the Bears will be able to score enough to win and barely cover.

Broncos at Dolphins (-0.5)This is a meeting of two teams who have not done well this season. Dolphins QB Jay Cutler is out of the concussion protocol and is expected to start after Matt Moore played last week. QB Brock Osweiler is expected to draw the start once again for the Broncos, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for them. I’ll give the home team the advantage and go with the Dolphins.

Lions at Ravens (-2.5) – The Ravens beat the Texans on Monday night but face a better offense this week with the LIons and QB Matthew Stafford. I don’t think Ravens QB Joe Flacco will be able to score enough to keep the Ravens in the game so I’ll take the LIons with the points.

Buccaneers at Packers (-2.5) Packers QB Brett Hundley played perhaps his best game of the season last week, barely losing to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. For the Buccaneers, QB Jameis Winston has been named the starter, returning to action after Ryan Fitzpatrick has started in his absence for the last few games. I don’t think the Bucs are very good right now and Winston will probably be rusty and not at 100% so I’ll reluctantly take the Packers at Lambeau.

Texans at Titans (-6.5) – With injuries to QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt, the Texans aren’t a great team right now and they’re facing the first-place team in their division this week. Titans QB Marcus Mariota hasn’t been good this year, but he’s still better than his counterpart, Tom Savage, so I expect the Titans to win and I think they can be a touchdown better so I’ll give the points.

Colts at Jaguars (-9.5) – The other two AFC South teams are meeting in this game, with the Jaguars nearly double-digit favorites. After losing to the Cardinals last week, I’m not confident that Blake Bortles and the Jaguars will be able to cover that type of spread despite having one of the best defenses in the league. I’ll go with the Colts.

Chiefs at Jets (+3.5)- The Chiefs have lost three straight and five of their last six after beginning the season 5-0. I think they get back on track against the Jets. The defense should be able to keep the Jets offense from scoring a lot, which means Chiefs QB Alex Smith won’t be much of a handicap for the team if he keeps playing the way he has been of late. Give me the Chiefs on the road.

Sunday 4PM games

Browns at Chargers (-13.5) – It’s Week 13 but the Browns are still looking for their first win of the season. A few weeks ago, I would have thought they could get it against the Chargers, but they have been playing better of late so I’m not so sure the Browns will be able to pull off the win on the road. One thing working in Cleveland’s favor is the fact that they will have WR Josh Gordon for the first time since Week 16 of the 2014 season. With nearly three full years since the last time he played in a regular season NFL game, I’m not sure if Gordon will be able to play at the level he did before he started facing suspensions by the league. I think QB Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers to victory, but I don’t think they can win by two touchdowns to cover the spread so I’ll take the points despite expecting the Browns to fall to 0-12.

Giants at Raiders (-6.5) This will be the first regular season Giants game since Week 10 of the 2004 season to be started by a quarterback other than Eli Manning after the team announced that it will bench the veteran — ending his consecutive starts streak at 210, the second longest in NFL history behind Brett Favre — in favor of Geno Smith, making his first start since Week 7 of last season. The Raiders will be shorthanded on offense, with WR Michael Crabtree suspended for the game and WR Amari Cooper likely missing the game due to injury. If the receivers can’t go, that gives the Giants a better shot to win the game, but I don’t think Smith can be trusted to play well enough to win. I’ll go with the Raiders.

Rams at Cardinals (+6.5) – Both teams are coming off of wins last weekend, but the Rams’ victory over the Saints was more impressive than the Cardinals barely pulling off the upset of the Jaguars. The Rams are clearly the better team and I don’t think the game will be that close. I’ll give the points.

Panthers at Saints (-3.5)It’ll be a tough test for Panthers QB Cam Newton to keep up with the strong Saints offense led by QB Drew Brees and impressive rookie RB Alvin Kamara in this key game in the NFC South race. The Saints are the better overall team and I think they’ll be able to cover.

Sunday Night Football

Eagles at Seahawks (+5.5) – The Eagles, who are among the best teams in the league, head to take on a Seahawks team with a defense that has been depleted by injuries. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will have to have a tremendous game to be able to keep up with Eagles QB Carson Wentz, and I don’t think he’ll be able to do it.,Go with the Eagles.

Monday Night Football

Steelers at Bengals (+6.5) – The Steelers barely got passed the Packers last week but I don’t think they’ll have such troubles with the Bengals on Monday night. I think Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell are too good and the Bengals offense won’t be able to score enough points to keep the game close, despite last week’s breakout performance by RB Joe Mixon. I’m giving the points on the road.

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