Tag Archives: Wild Card

My NFL Picks: Conference Championships — Young quarterbacks battle Super Bowl-winning vets

Three of the four underdogs won on the road in the wild card round, but things were different in the divisional round when all four home favorites won. That means that the top two seeds in each conference will be playing each other for the right to head to Atlanta to play in Super Bowl LIII on February 3. In addition to both conference championship games pitting the No. 1 and 2 seeds against each other, both feature an all-time great veteran quarterback with at least one Super Bowl ring facing off with a young quarterback with a bright future in the NFL.

The Sunday doubleheader kicks off in New Orleans, with QB Drew Brees and the top-seeded Saints hosting the No. 2 seed Rams, led by QB Jared Goff. When these teams played each other back in Week 9, the Saints won 45-35. The Rams are looking to make the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2001 season, while the Saints are looking to return to the title game for the first time since they won it in the 2009 season. In the nightcap, QB Tom Brady leads the Patriots — who are in the AFC championship game for the eighth straight season — into Kansas City to take on QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who hope to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Last week, I went 3-1 picking games, but 0-4 against the spread and 2-2 on over/unders. Through the first two weeks of the postseason, that puts me at 4-4 straight up, 1-7 against the spread and 4-4 on over/unders.

No. 2 seed Los Angeles Rams at No. 1 seed New Orleans Saints (-3, over/under 56.5)

When these teams played each other in Week 9, the Saints won 45-35 at home. Both quarterbacks put up big numbers in that one, with Goff throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns and Brees tossing four touchdowns on 346 passing yards. Saints RB Alvin Kamara ran for a couple of touchdowns in that game, but the player of the game was Saints WR Michael Thomas. He caught 12 of his 15 targets for 211 yards and a touchdown. But Rams WR Brandin Cooks also had a good game, securing six receptions for 114 yards and a score. The Rams had WR Cooper Kupp in that game, but they’ll be without him in the conference title game as he has been out since the middle of the season with a season-ending injury. 

The Superdome is a tough place for opponents to play; the Saints are 6-3 at home this season, including last week’s win over the Eagles. And this should be another shootout, as it was when these teams met during the regular season. They combined for 80 points in that contest, and they probably won’t reach that total again, but both teams certainly have the ability to score in the 30s. The Saints were middle-of-the-pack in points allowed during the regular season, and the Rams were 20th in the category. When it comes down to it, I think the Saints have the overall advantage in the passing attack. I’ll take Brees and his experience over Goff — even though Brees didn’t play as well in the second half of the season — and Thomas was one of the best receivers in the league this year. I’ll take him over Cooks or Robert Woods. The Rams may have a slight advantage at the running back position, though. Kamara is good, but Rams RB Todd Gurley — when healthy — is probably better than him. That “when healthy” qualifier is key because Gurley has been dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of the Rams’ last two regular season games, but he played through it last week against the Cowboys to carry the ball 16 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. Backup RB C.J. Anderson has played surprisingly well in his three games with the Rams, totaling at least 20 rushes, 123 yards and a touchdown in all of those contests. That is a good insurance policy to have in case Gurley can’t carry the full workload in the running game. Although neither team has a great defense, the Rams have the best defenders in the game with DTs Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, although CB Eli Apple has played well for the Saints since they acquired him from the Giants before the trade deadline.

These teams are pretty evenly matched, and I would normally pick the Saints at home, but the Rams were my preseason Super Bowl pick and I’m going to stick with them. I’m going to count on the Gurley-Anderson combo to lead the offense. Plus, I expect the Rams to focus on stopping the run to try to make Brees beat them because he hasn’t played that well recently. I’m expecting a close game, but not as high-scoring as their first meeting. I’ll go with the Rams 35-30.

Rams (+3), over 56.5

No. 2 seed New England Patriots at No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs (-3, over/under 56)

Getting home-field advantage could be big for the Chiefs because the Patriots were 9-0 at home this season — including last week’s victory over the Chargers — but just 3-5 away from Gillette Stadium. One of the Patriots’ home games was a Week 6 tilt in which they edged the Chiefs 43-40. Mahomes threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns in the loss, with Brady going for 340 yards with just one touchdown. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt had nearly 200 all-purpose yards for the team, but he is no longer with the Chiefs after being released late in the regular season. WR Tyreek Hill had a big game, catching seven balls for 142 yards and three scores. TE Travis Kelce had 61 receiving yards on five catches. For the Patriots, RB Sony Michel carried the ball 24 times for 106T yards and two touchdowns. The Pats’ leading receiver was TE Rob Gronkowski, who had three receptions for 97 yards. WR Julian Edelman had the home team’s only touchdown through the air as one of his four catches that totaled 54 yards. WR Chris Hogan caught all four of his targets for 78 yards.

Earlier in the week, it looked like there could be bitter cold and/or snowy conditions for the game on Sunday evening, but more recent forecasts have bumped the temperatures up into the 20s and done away with the calls for snow. So it doesn’t look like the weather will play as much of a factor in the game as it appeared earlier, but Brady and the Patriots are used to playing in cold and snow anyway, so it probably wouldn’t have negatively affected them much. The Patriots theoretically have the defensive advantage in this game, having given up nearly 100 fewer points during the season than the Chiefs did, but it’s hard for defenses to keep the Chiefs from scoring a lot and they scored more points against the Patriots than any other team this season.  So I’m not sure how much of an advantage that will be. The Chiefs’ offensive weakness is in the running game, but RB Damien Williams did run for 129 yards and a touchdown last week against the Colts. That was one of four rushing touchdowns in the game as the Colts held Mahomes without a passing touchdown. But Kelce had a big receiving game with 108 yards on seven receptions. The running backs were also a big part of the Patriots’ win over the Chargers last week. Michel had 129 rushing yards with three touchdowns, and RB James White caught 15 of his 17 targets for 97 yards. But Edelman had an even better receiving game, with 151 yards on nine receptions.

 I expect the Patriots to go with a similar game plan as last week, relying on Michel to run the ball and short passes to White to move downfield. The Chiefs, meanwhile, should rely on Mahomes’ arm to get the job done, mixing in Williams’ work on the ground. I think the Chiefs get the win at home, 35-27, to advance to Atlanta.

Chiefs (-3), over 56

By the end of the night Sunday, we’ll know which teams will be playing in Super Bowl LIII. If my picks end up being correct, it’ll be the two young guns in Goff and Mahomes each playing in their first title game.

(Spreads and over/unders from Vegas Insider)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

My NFL Picks: Divisional Playoffs — Rivers battles Brady for spot in AFC Championship

With the Wild Card round in the rear-view mirror, there are four games left to determine which teams make it to the conference championship games. QB Nick Foles led the Eagles to an upset over the Bears last week to keep alive the Eagles’ hopes for repeating as Super Bowl champs, but they’ll have to beat QB Drew Brees and the Saints in the weekend’s final game to advance to the conference final. In the earlier game on Sunday, Chargers QB Philip Rivers looks to slay his postseason demons when he heads to Massachusetts to take on QB Tom Brady and a Patriots team that seems like it could be easier to beat than it has been during much of the Brady-Belichick dynasty. The weekend begins with resurgent QB Andrew Luck leading the Colts into Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, with likely MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. In the late Saturday game, the Cowboys look to get back to the NFC title game for the first time since the 1994 season with QB Dak Prescott battling QB Jared Goff and the Rams.

I didn’t get off to a good start with my picks last week, going 1-3 both against the spread and straight-up, but I was 2-2 on over/unders. Let’s see if I can do better with the four divisional games.

Saturday

No. 6 seed Indianapolis Colts at No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, AFC West champions) (-5.5, over/under 57)

In his first full season as a starting quarterback, Mahomes exceeded all expectations by throwing 50 touchdown passes, and in his first career playoff game he faces another surprising quarterback in Luck, who many people weren’t sure if he could return from his shoulder injury and play at a high level. Mahomes’ top targets on the season were WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce, who combined for 190 catches and 22 touchdowns. For the Colts, WR T.Y. Hilton is coming off a Wild Card game in which he had five receptions for 85 yards, while TE Eric Ebron continued to find the end zone, securing one of his three receptions against the Texans for a touchdown.

Counting last week’s win over the Texans, the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 games, but I think the success ends this week. While the Chiefs’ defense isn’t good, I think Mahomes and the rest of the offense will be able to put enough points on the board to win the game. I do, however, think the Colts keep it close enough to cover. And both of these teams have good offenses, so I’m going over the 57.

Colts (+5.5), over 57

dal-lar

No. 4 seed Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 seed Los Angeles Rams (13-3, NFC West champions) (-7, over/under 49.5)

The Rams begin their playoff run at home against a Cowboys team that beat the Seahawks by two points last week. Goff threw for nearly 4700 yards and 32 touchdowns during the regular season, despite losing one of his top receivers WR Cooper Kupp about midway through the season. He still has WRs Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, who each surpassed 1200 yards on 80-plus receptions during the year. RB Todd Gurley sat out the team’s last two games with a knee injury, but he is expected to start on Saturday. For the Cowboys, RB Ezekiel Elliott is coming off a 137-yard game on 26 carries with a touchdown, and WR Amari Cooper had seven catches for 106 yards, nearly half of Prescott’s 226 passing yards.

I think the keys to victory for the Cowboys will be another good game from Elliott and a strong defensive performance. I think the Cowboys will keep it close, but I expect the Rams to win the game, and I think both teams can reach the mid 20s, so I’ll go over 49.5.

Cowboys (+7), over 49.5

Sunday

lacne

No. 5 seed Los Angeles Chargers at No. 2 seed New England Patriots (11-5, AFC East champions) (-4, over/under 47.5)

The Chargers beat the Ravens on the road a week ago, now they have to head back east again, this time to try to topple Brady and the Patriots. Brady threw just 29 touchdown passes, his fewest in a full season since 2013. Part of the reason for that is because TE Rob Gronkowski only played in 13 games and WR Josh Gordon played in 11 before leaving the team to deal with personal issues. Brady’s leading receiver was RB James White, with 87 catches, followed by WR Julian Edelman, who caught 74 balls in 12 games. Those two players accounted for 13 of Brady’s 29 touchdowns. Rookie RB Sony Michel led the team with 209 rushes for 931 yards and six scores. Last week, the Chargers only had 243 total yards of offense, but the defense held the Ravens to 229 yards and caused the Ravens to turn the ball over three times.

Despite the Patriots’ struggles this season, the Chargers’ defense will probably have a harder time than it did last week against rookie QB Lamar Jackson. On offense, the Chargers are expected to get back TE Hunter Henry, who missed the entire regular season and last week’s Wild Card game with a torn ACL. His return should give the Chargers’ passing attack a boost. On the other side of the field, Gronkowski hasn’t had more than two receptions in a game since Week 14. Even though the Patriots traditionally do well in home playoff games, this isn’t the same Patriot team as in the past and I think they are vulnerable. I think Rivers leads the Chargers to another win on the road to advance to the conference championship game for the second time in his career. Chargers cover and win outright, and I’ll take the over. 

 Chargers (+4), under 47.5

phino

No. 6 seed Philadelphia Eagles at No. 1 seed New Orleans Saints (1-3, NFC South champions) (-8, over/under 51)

When these teams met during the regular season, the Saints won 48-7 in Week 11. Like that game, this one is at the Superdome, where the Saints traditionally play better than they do on the road. Saints WR Michael Thomas had 125 receptions for 1405 yards and nine touchdowns during the season. RB Alvin Kamara added another 81 catches for 709 yards, despite the fact that Brees didn’t put up the kinds of numbers we have come to expect from the future Hall of Famer. In the Eagles’ upset of the Bears last week, Foles continued his impressive play, throwing for 266 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The running game was virtually nonexistent, though, with just 42 yards on 23 carries. That is where the Eagles’ biggest weakness lies with a committee made up of RBs Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams.

Counting last week, the Eagles are on a four-game winning streak, but I think that ends in New Orleans. The game won’t be as much of a blowout as it was last time, but I still think the Saints can win by a double-digit margin, so I’ll pick them to cover, and I’ll go slightly under the 51. 

 Saints (-8), under 51

So this outcomes would set up a NFC Championship between the Rams and Saints, the top two seeds in the conference, in New Orleans, while the AFC title game would feature the fifth-seeded Chargers heading to Kansas City to take on the top-seed Chiefs on the road to Super Bowl LIII and an NFL championship for one of the remaining teams.

(Spreads and over/unders from Vegas Insider)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MLB Postseason Preview: 2018 Predictions

After two Game 163s on Monday, in which the Brewers beat the Cubs to nab the top spot in the NL Central and the No. 1 seed in the National League and the Dodgers beat the Rockies to win the NL West, it’s time for the 2018 postseason to begin.

Image courtesy ESPN

It begins Tuesday night with the Cubs hosting the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card game, then the Yankees host the A’s in the AL Wild Card game on Wednesday. The winner of the NL game faces the Brewers in the National League Division Series, with the AL winner facing the Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

The Cubs have been reeling of late, losing a five-game lead in the division in early September to end up in the Wild Card game. The Rockies, meanwhile, went 19-9 in the month of September. With the teams headed in different directions, the Rockies have positive momentum on their side. It should be a good pitching matchup with SP Kyle Freeland going for the Rockies and SP Jon Lester taking the mound for the Cubs. Despite the game being at Wrigley Field, I don’t think the Cubs are good enough right now and I think the Rockies win the game to advance to the NLDS.

There’s a similar story at Yankee Stadium as the A’s are coming off a 16-10 September while the Yankees were just 15-12 in the month, their worst record in a calendar month this season. Neither team has announced its starter yet, but SP Luis Severino figures to get the ball for the Yankees with the A’s potentially going with a bullpen game. Even though Severino hasn’t pitched well in the second half of the season, the Yankees would probably have the advantage there. And they certainly have the advantage on offense after setting a new MLB record for home runs in a season. If the A’s have a lead after six or seven innings, I trust their bullpen — especially closer Blake Treinen — more than the Yankees’. I don’t think it’ll come down to that, though, and I think the Yankees will win the game to go to the ALDS.

American League
Division Series
Red Sox beat Yankees in 4 games
Astros beat Indians in 4 games

Championship Series
Astros beat Red Sox in 6 games

National League
Division Series
Brewers beat Rockies in 5 games
Braves beat Dodgers in 5 games

Championship Series
Braves beat Brewers in 6 games

World Series

beat

in 5 games.

So I think the Astros will become the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to repeat as World Series champions.

We’ll update these predictions, with further analysis, after each round as the postseason progresses.

Add to Facebook
Add to Digg
Add to Del.icio.us
Add to Stumbleupon
Add to Reddit
Add to Blinklist
Add to Twitter
Add to Technorati
Add to Yahoo Buzz
Add to Newsvine

MLB Postseason Preview: 2017 Predictions

Now that the Wild Card games are over and the division series are set, time to predict what’s going to happen in the rest of the postseason.

American League
Division Series
Astros beat Red Sox in 4 games
Indians beat Yankees in 4 games

Championship Series
Indians beat Astros in 7 games

National League
Division Series
Nationals beat Cubs in 4 games
Diamondbacks beat Dodgers in 5 games

Championship Series
Nationals beat Diamondbacks in 6 games

World Series

nationals

beat

indians

in 6 games.

I’m 2-0 after the Wild Card games, let’s see how I do with the rest of my picks.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MLB Postseason Preview: American League Wild Card game — Twins at Yankees

It’s October, and that means the Major League Baseball postseason is here. This is the third year of the expanded playoffs with Wild Card games in the American League and National League. For the second time in those three years, the AL Wild Card game is being played at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees lost the game to the Astros in 2015, but they seem to have an easier matchup this time, hosting the Twins. The Yankees are coming off a 91-71 season while the Twins finished the regular season 85-77, making the playoffs just a season after losing a MLB-worst 103 games in 2016.

The visitors are putting veteran SP Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA) on the mound to oppose Yankees SP Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA).

The Yankees having home-field advantage in the game could come into play because even though the Twins finished the 2017 season a respectable 44-37 on the road, the Yankees were an impressive 51-29 in the Bronx during the regular season.

Santana has the clear experience advantage over Severino, as he is making his third career postseason start and ninth appearance overall, while Severino is playing in his first career postseason game, at any level of professional baseball. They both pitched well during the season, with Santana winning two more games and Severino recording a slightly lower ERA. Santana had a rough couple of starts in early September, giving up four earned runs in back-to-back outings, but he hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in four starts since then, and he went all of August without allowing more than three earned runs. Severino only had two games since the beginning of July in which he gave up more than three earned runs — a six-run outing on July 2 and an eight-run game on August 12. Severino has also been racking up the strikeouts in the second half of the season, totaling 123 since July 1, just 44 fewer than Santana’s total for the season. Advantage: Yankees

The Yankees have one of the best bullpens in the majors, and it only got better at the non-waiver trade deadline, with the additions of RPs David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to a bullpen that already had RPs Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Overall, the Yankees had the third-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 3.35 but the Twins were down at 23rd in the rankings, with a 4.42 ERA from their relievers.The Twins had more saves than the Yankees — 41 to 36 — but that could be a result of how the games went. If given a choice, I’d still rather have the Yankees’ bullpen.
Advantage: Yankees

Looking at the offense, both teams were in the top 10 in batting average, with the Yankees having a slight advantage, but the Yankees have a clear advantage in the power department, having led the majors with 240 home runs — thanks in large part to 52 off the bat of OF Aaron Judge — which was 36 more than the Twins hit, with their team high being 34 from 2B Brian Dozier. Yankees C Gary Sanchez was second on the team with 33 home runs, just one fewer than the Twins’ home-run leader. With so many more home runs for the Yankees, it’s not surprising that they also had a higher OPS than the Twins, with the Yankees ranking third in the majors in that category and the Twins being ninth. The biggest hole in the Yankees’ lineup is DH Matt Holliday, who hit just .230 in 104 games this season, with 18 home runs. The biggest offensive liability for the Twins is C Jason Castro, but that’s the position where most teams have their worst offensive production.
Advantage: Yankees

The Twins are one of the best defensive teams in the league, with their 78 errors being tied for the fourth fewest in the majors. The Yankees, on the other hand, made 95 errors, which was two more than the league average.
Advantage: Twins

The Yankees have the advantage in all major aspects of the game other than defense. As long as Severino can give the Yankees six innings and get a lead to the bullpen, I think the Yankees will win the game. If the Twins are going to have a chance to win, they’ll need big production out of the likes of Dozier, 3B Miguel Sano and OF Byron Buxton.

Whoever wins advances to the American League Division Series to play the AL Central champion Indians. The other ALDS is already set, with the AL West champion Astros holding home-field advantage in the series with the Red Sox, who won the AL East for the second year in a row. Both American League series begin on Thursday.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

MLB Weekly: One more week

Teams are making a final playoff push as the last week of the regular season begins in this week’s MLB Weekly.

Next Sunday, October 1, is the final day of the MLB regular season, which means teams in the playoff picture have just a week left to either qualify for the postseason or improve their playoff seeding.

All but one of the playoff spots have been clinched in the American League, with just one Wild Card spot up for grabs. But playoff seeding is still left to be decided among the Indians, Astros, Red Sox and Yankees, who are the four teams who have guaranteed their spots in October baseball. The Indians and Astros have clinched the Central and West, respectively, but they are fighting for the top seed in the American League, which would guarantee home-field advantage in the ALDS, ALCS and possibly World Series. The Indians currently lead the Astros by 1.5 games for the best record in the AL.

The Red Sox currently lead the AL East, but the Yankees still mathematically have a slight chance to pass them in the division, sitting four games back entering Sunday. The Twins are in possession of the league’s second Wild Card and are 4.5 games ahead of the Rangers, Royals and Angels, who have slipped in the standings after losing six in a row. In both cases, that kind of lead is hard to make up with fewer than 10 games remaining on the schedule. The Rays and Mariners are also technically still alive but need a lot to go right for them to make it to the postseason.

AL standings

In the National League, there is more uncertainty. The Nationals and Dodgers have locked up the East and West, respectively, but the Central and the two Wild Cards still haven’t been clinched. The Cubs, who have won eight of their last 10 games, lead the Brewers by 4.5 games and appear to be headed to their second straight division title on the way to defending their World Series championship. The Brewers are more likely to make the postseason as a Wild Card rather than a division winner. They are one game out of landing one of the NL’s two Wild Card spots that are currently held by the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Cardinals are also part of the four-team race for the NL Wild Cards, just 1.5 games behind the Rockies. Every other team in the National League has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

As far as the seeding goes, the Dodgers still hold the best record in the NL despite being just 7-16 in the month of September. They are 4.5 games better than the Nationals and, barring another extended losing streak like they had earlier this month, should be able to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs.

NL standings

The coming week is critical to teams like the Brewers and Cardinals still hoping to make it to October. In the National League, the Cardinals host the Cubs for a four-game series starting Monday that could give St. Louis a chance at closing the gap in the division race if they can win at least three games, and that would also help them stay alive in the Wild Card race. The Brewers have Monday off before playing three games at home against the Reds from Tuesday to Thursday. The Diamondbacks and Rockies begin the week hosting the Giants and Marlins, respectively, Monday through Wednesday before getting their final off-day on Thursday. Then for the final weekend of the season, the Brewers and Cardinals play each other in St. Louis, while the Rockies host the Dodgers — who likely will have the top seed wrapped up and may be resting some of their stars — and the Diamondbacks visit the Royals.

Probable pitchers are more in flux during the last week of the season than usual, depending on how all the playoff positioning works out as the week progresses, but here’s how it currently looks. The Diamondbacks have their three best starters slated to go against the Giants, with SPs Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke set to take the mound on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They likely could have the first Wild Card wrapped up by the time the series with Kansas City gets underway. The Rockies are set to have SPs Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray go against the Marlins, with SPs Chad Bettis and German Marquez currently scheduled to face the Dodgers. For the Brewers, SPs Zack Davies, Brandon Woodruff and Brent Suter are scheduled to start in the Reds series, with SPs Chase Anderson and Aaron Wilkerson penciled in for the Cardinals series. The Cardinals have SP Luke Weaver scheduled to begin the all-important Cubs series on Monday, followed by SPs Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. SP John Gant is currently slated to begin the Brewers series, with Weaver then set for a second start in the seven-game week for the team.

The schedule for the American League contenders sees the Red Sox hosting the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday, then the Astros come to Boston for the final four games of the regular season. Interestingly, those two teams could also play each other in one of the two American League Division Series. Before the Red Sox series, the Astros are on the road against the Rangers for three games starting Monday. After an off-day Monday, the Indians have six home games — three against the Twins and another three against the White Sox. After visiting the Indians, the Twins host the Tigers for their final series of the regular season. And the Yankees have a makeup game against the Royals in the Bronx on Monday, followed by three-game series against the Rays and Blue Jays at home as they look to overtake the Red Sox in the division.

The Red Sox have a mixed bag of starters set to go this week, starting the week with SPs Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello scheduled to face the Blue Jays and SPs Eduardo Rodriguez, Doug Fister and Pomeranz again set to go against the Astros. Indians SPs Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are on tap to face the Twins with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber penciled in for the White Sox series, but if the Indians have the top seed locked up by then don’t be surprised to see that change. The Astros have set up their rotation to avoid having aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander pitch at Fenway Park, so they’ll take the mound against the Rangers, along with SP Collin McHugh, who’s slated to get a second start in Boston along with SPs Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The Twins have SPs Bartolo Colon, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson facing the Indians, with SPs Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios set to go against the Tigers. As the Yankees look to catch the Red Sox, they’ll send SPs CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray to the mound against the Rays, with SPs Jaime Garcia and, potentially, Sabathia facing the Blue Jays.

With all of that in mind, I don’t think the Brewers or Cardinals will be able to sneak into the playoffs and all of the teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today will actually make the postseason when the season does end in a week.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: New York Mets

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season, are the New York Metswho finished in second place in the NL East last season

 

A season after losing to the Royals in the World Series the Mets had an 87-win season in 2016, finishing behind the Nationals in the division, and losing to the Giants in the National League Wild Card game in the playoffs. The Mets didn’t make any notable moves in the offseason. They lost SP Bartolo Colon in free agency, opening up a spot in their starting rotation, which has high upside with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, who is coming off an injury that limited him to 17 starts last season and ending his season in early July. Barring an injury SP Steven Matz should be able to get 30-plus starts for the first time in his major league career, which could provide a boost to the pitching staff if he can pitch well out of the No. 4 spot in the rotation. OF Yoenis Cespedes will likely be relied upo to lead the offense with injury questions surrounding veteran 3B David Wright, who had to leave spring training early to head back to New York to have doctors look at a shoulder injury, which could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day.

The Mets ranked near the bottom of the majors with a .246 average last season but their 218 home runs were fifth-best among the 30 teams. Cespedes and OF Curtis Granderson led the team with 31 and 30 home runs, respectively, while 2B Neil Walker‘s .282 average was tops among the team’s starting position players. Cespedes’ 31 home runs put him in a tie for the ninth most in the National League and his .530 slugging percentage was also ninth in the NL. 3B Jose Reyes, who played 60 games with the team as a midseason free-agent signing, had one of his best seasons in recent years, hitting .267 with 8 home runs. Young OF Michael Conforto showed some power last season, hitting 12 home runs in 304 at-bats, but hit just .220 and struck out 89 times. On the mound, Syndergaard had one of the best seasons among all major league pitchers, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings while compiling a 14-9 record. His 6.0 WAR ranked sixth among all players in the NL. The Mets also saw a good year out of deGrom, who had a 3.04 ERA in an injury-shortened season during which he threw 148 innings in 24 starts, striking out 143. Harvey, who was limited to just 92.2 innings put up a disappointing 4.86 ERA and struck out just 76 batters. Closer Jeurys Familia recorded 51 saves in 56 opportunities. He notched 84 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA over 77.2 innings.

Heading into this season, the Mets need to get more consistent at getting on base, they can’t rely on the long ball as much as they did last year. A key piece to the offense will be OF Jay Bruce, who struggled at the plate after being traded by the Reds to the Mets at the trade deadline. Bruce is the projected starter in right field, but he may not hold that job long if he doesn’t improve upon the .219 he hit in his 50 games with the team last season. Conforto is lurking behind Bruce on the depth chart, waiting to take over for the veteran if he can’t perform to the Mets’ expectations. It might be hard for Syndergaard to repeat his performance from last season, but if he can even come close to that he’ll be a strong ace of a young rotation. The questions come with the rest of the starters, including whether Harvey is fully recovered from his injury and can make it through the full season and if Matz can handle a full-season workload after throwing 132 innings in the majors last season. The Mets shouldn’t have much concern about their bullpen, with Familia coming off two seasons with 43 and 51 saves. The caveat with that is a possible suspension looming for Familia, who was arrested for domestic violence last year. If he misses time for that, RPs Addison Reed or Hansel Robles would likely to get the bulk of the save opportunities in his absence.

The Mets and Nationals should continue to fight for the top spot in the East this season, though the Mets are likely going to be on the worse end of that battle if the offense doesn’t pick things up. The team will likely have to rely on the starting rotation to keep them in games and help them get victories if they want to make it to the playoffs for a third straight season.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.mets.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine