Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 9:07 AM
The Major-League Baseball All-Star Game finally arrives on Tuesday night ... so let's not waste another moment as we dig in with the Jim Sez National League Report Card Grades for all 15 teams and remember we'll have the American League grades in tomorrow's Jim Sez ...
ST. LOUIS (55-34) - Now considered the "model franchise" in MLB, the Cardinals have an electric lineup starring All-Star C Yadina Molina and a pitching staff that truly boasts three potential Cy Young award winners in starters Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn along with closer Edward Mujica.
PITTSBURGH (54-36) - Even with a little swoon lately, these 2013 Buccos have been one of the top two or three "feel-good" stories of the year and the fact Pittsburgh's playing .600 ball with key starting pitchers A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez missing time means this club's deeper than you think.
ATLANTA (53-39) - The Braves have overcome injuries to key bullpen arms and a lineup that strikes out plenty to lead the NL East all season long. Still, there's plenty of potent power bats on hand and closer Craig Kimbrel should be raking in some Cy Young votes these days.
CINCINNATI (51-41) - Gotta admit the Reds are right about where we thought they'd be at the unofficial midway point of this here-and-now season with 2B Brandon Phillips (third in the NL in RBI with 67) proving he's now one of the league's elite players.
ARIZONA (47-44) - Yes, we're aware of the fact the Diamondbacks have a slim lead in the NL West but there simply is not much inconsistency here and that includes 1B Paul Goldschmidt who may have a little Dave Kingman in 'em, if you know what we mean!
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (45-45) - This grade would have been a "D" just two weeks ago but Don Mattingly's crew has surged forward, thanks in large part to rookie OF Yasiel Puig who won't be going to the All-Star Game after all.
NEW YORK METS (40-48) - The Mets have won seven of their last 10 games and OF Eric Young, Jr. really has been a major sparkplug for Terry Collins' squad but for most of the season's first three months it's been marathon games (four 15-inning-or-longer tilts), weather issues and lots of empty seats at Citi Field.
CHICAGO (40-49) - The Cubs are just one winning streak away from "relevancy" but whatever happened to this pitching staff that now ranks a wobbly 10th in the league in team ERA?
MIAMI (33-57) - As bad as this season's been for the once-again-rebuilding Marlins, there's been bright spots too as RHP Jose Fernandez is a legit star.
PHILADELPHIA (46-47) - The old-and-tired Phillies have been given an energy jolt by All-Star slugger Domonic Brown and LHP Cliff Lee has been great but little else has gone right.
COLORADO (44-48) - The Rockies rank dead-last in the NL in team ERA and so it's somewhat surprising that this NL West club is "only" a few games below the .500 mark.
WASHINGTON (47-45) - When you enter a season with a World Series-or-bust mentality, you have to do better than this and, yes, we know OF Bryce Harper missed 31 games! Gotta say that manager Davey Johnson should have left the stage after last year's playoff collapse.
SAN DIEGO (41-51) - Flip the script with the aforementioned Dodgers as we would have handed the Padres a "C" grade just 10 days ago but late June/early July swoon has been a killer.
SAN FRANCISCO (40-50) - The 2010 and 2012 World Series champs have been a bad joke lately and now they're actually being considered "sellers" in this month's trade market. Hey, we've also seen manager Bruce Bochy blow things a few times lately like when the Jints batted out of order last weekend versus the Dodgers ... ugh!
MILWAUKEE (37-53) - Here are truly the biggest busts in the senior circuit as this team's biggest star (LF Ryan Braun) is about to be hit with a monstrous suspension while the defense/starting pitching for this Brew Crew is simply awful.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be banging out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners all summer long and so check with us right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners. Plus, the Football Season isn't that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear in early August - can't wait! So, pile up the greenbacks while you're kicking back this summer of 2013!
NFL NEWS & NOTES - TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS
Today we continue with our annual summertime NFL Team-by-Team looks of all 32 clubs. Note that tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez will conclude this quick-hitter look 'round the NFL but be sure there's a whole lot of NCAA Football and NFL goodies in the days, weeks and months ahead.
In today's column space we highlight the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Take note that we list the overall team records (including post-season play) next to the team names below:
CINCINNATI (10-7) - Is this going to be a bust-out season for Bengals' third-year QB Andy Dalton?
No doubt head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden believe Dalton is gonna make great strides one year after throwing for 3,669 yards with 27 TDs and 16 INTs but insiders say the Bengals' brain trust really hopes he'll develop a bit more "mental toughness" after showing some cracks last season following a bad toss or a bad read.
Note that Cincinnati finished pretty much in the middle of the NFL pack in passing yardage - the 223.6 yards-per-game ranked Cincy 17th in the 32-team NFL - and rookie TE Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) is expected to be an instant hit in this Bengals offense that last year sported three players with 50-plus receptions including wide-out A.J. Green (97 receptions and 11 TDs).
Spread Notes - Last year's Bengals made it back-to-back playoff appearances but it's worth noting that the 2012 Cincy kids were strikingly similar to the 2011 team in terms of pointspread prowess:The Bengals registered an 8-7-2 ATS (against the spread) mark two years ago and last season wound up 8-8-1 against the juice so the fact of the matter is nobody's exactly been "getting rich" wagering on the Bengals even with this mini run of post-season play.
Note the Bengals did close last year on a neat 6-3 ATS run although one of those spread setbacks occurred in the season-ending 19-13 AFC Wild Card Round playoff loss at 4-point favorite Houston. Overall, Cincinnati was much better outside the AFC North where Lewis' squad struck up a 7-4 ATS log as compared to a slumbering 1-4-1 vig mark inside the rough-and-tumble division.
SAN DIEGO (7-9) - How much of this Chargers team gonna change as compared to last year?
Well, for starters, C Nick Hardwick is expected to be the only starting offensive lineman from the 2012 team to regain a starting berth this year although note Jeromey Clary is expected to move to right guard from right tackle and so he's a plus and then there's Alabama rookie RT D.J. Fluker - so might the Lightin' Bolts be younger but better than last year's O-line edition? Hmmm.
Note that the above-mentioned offensive line surrendered 49 quarterback sacks in all - only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (50 sacks allowed) had more in the AFC -- and something is gonna have to be done to improve the team's sluggish ground game that last year averaged a mere 3.6 yards per carry - and that ranked 'em 31st-best in the league.
Spread Notes - The Chargers have sported only one winning pointspread season in the past five years (see 9-7 ATS in 2010) as last year San Diego matched its SU (straight-up) mark of 7-9 with SD going 3-5 ATS as betting favorites, 4-2 ATS as underdogs and 0-2 in its pair of pick 'em games (in back-to-back home tilts versus Baltimore and Cincinnati).
Note that the Bolts did snag 4-of-6 spread wins within the AFC (that's splits with both Denver and Oakland and a clean sweep over Kansas City) and San Diego also finally covered a Week One game (sere 22-14 versus the one-point home-favored Raiders) after having lost four successive season-opening tilts dating back to 2008.
PHILADELPHIA (4-12) - One year after the Eagles won all four of their victories by either one or two points (can you imagine if than-head coach Andy Reid's team didn't win those close games and finished 0-and-16?) the Birds face a rugged first half of this 2013 season with back-to-back-to-back road games at Denver/the New York Giants/Tampa Bay in Weeks 4-5-6 to go along with road tilts in Minnesota and Dallas in two of the final three weekends.
In short, rookie head coach Chip Kelly - who went 46-7 SU in his four years as head coach with the Oregon Ducks - may have to "steal" a road game or two along the way after last year's Eagles won just twice in enemy territory (at Cleveland in Week One and at Tampa Bay in Week 14) - might a double-revenge Week One clash at the Washington Redskins be a spot where this fast-break offense could shock the home team?
Hey, one stat line from last year's Eagles that better improve: Philly lost 37 fumbles a year ago with QB Michael Vick losing 11 of 'em. Ouch!
Spread Notes - No surprise that last year's Eagles were a major bust versus the vig with a 3-12-1 ATS log that included a pair of three-game spread losing streaks and a six-game spread losing skid.
Note that the Eagles sported the final pointspread marks in 2012: The Birds went 0-7-1 ATS at home and 3-5 ATS away; They registered an 0-5-1 ATS log as betting favorites while going 3-7 ATS as underdog sides; Finally, the Eagles finished 1-4-1 spreadwise within the NFC East and 2-8 ATS in their games outside the NFC East.
NOTE: Get our American League Report Card Grades plus our final installment of the NFL Team-by-Team Reports as we check in with the Houston Texans, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.