Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at 11:48 AM
FINISHING THE FIRST HALF OF SEASON "STRONG" IS IN EVERYONE'S HEADS, BUT WHO'S REALLY GETTING THE MESSAGE?
PLUS MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS AS WE TACKLE THE CHIEFS AND VIKINGS
NBA UPDATE: OUR QUICKIE TAKE ON THE KEVIN DURANT-TO-WARRIORS SIGNING
If you happened to be watching ESPN or the MLB Network on the Fourth of July - or even last night - then you noticed that a major topic of conversation was the ability (or perhaps inability) of teams finishing "strong" to end the unofficial first half of this here-and-now 2016 campaign.
Lots of folks at both networks were heaping praise on teams such as the New York Mets (see five straight wins till Tuesday's 5-2 loss against underdog Miami) and the Cleveland Indians (see 14-game winning streak before losing last Saturday and Sunday in Toronto) but when it comes to "getting the message" don't forget about the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox.
Exhibit A is the Dodgers who last week lost LHP Clayton Kershaw for perhaps a month or more with back issues and yet, instead of folding like a proverbial cheap suit, here's the Hollywood gang filling up the wins column and ranking as the National League's top wild card squad. Hey, Kershaw may be sidelined for a handful-plus starts, but the Dodgers apparently were listening when rookie manager Dave Roberts told 'em to not hang their heads and let this season slip away from them.
In fact, from last Thursday through this past Monday, the Dodgers' staff without Kershaw yielded only eight total runs while winning five straight against the combined efforts of Milwaukee, Colorado and Baltimore.
If the Dodgers (48-37 while entering last night's home game against the Orioles) do, in fact, snag a playoff berth this October than you could point to this week-or-so before next Tuesday's All-Star Game break as a time when they rallied the troops and showed strength when many teams are planning their All-Star Game break getaways.
Ditto for the oft-enigmatic Chisox (43-41) who have experienced a real roller-coaster first half of the '16 season but, with manager Robin Ventura facing heavy-duty criticism and the American League Central squad wondering if any starter not named Chris Sale (14 wins) can bank a "W" for 'em, here's the Sox having won three in a row and seven of their last 10 games prior to last night's loss to the New York Yankees. If ever a team needed to kick-start the final 10 games-or-so before the break, it was this South Side club that seemingly has more lives than your garden variety house cat.
Might want to check out how the Dodgers and White Sox fare this final weekend before the break - the Dodgers host San Diego four games in a row; the Pale Hose host three Interleague games against woe-be-gone Atlanta.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for 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 on Sunday, August 7th with the annual NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Indianapolis Colts versus the Green Bay Packers - just cannot wait, right?
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES
It is summertime and that means the annual Jim Sez report on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks continuing today with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings ... and check out our quickie pointspread ditties too. Last year's SU (straight-up) records appear next to the team name below:
KANSAS CITY (12-6) - Here's something you may not have known considering all Andy Reid does is get criticized by the know-nothing public and much of the "know-it-all" media: He's a composite 32-19 SU in three seasons as head coach of the Chiefs (a rousing .627 winning rate) and that includes three playoff games (one in 2013 and two a year ago). Now consider the Chiefs made it to one single post-season in the six years prior to Reid with the likes of Romeo Crennel, Todd Haley and Herm Edwards serving as coaches during this time. True, Reid's been known to botch some clock in the two-minute warning but is there any coach out there that could have rallied the troops with 11 consecutive wins after losing RB Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury?
Pointspread Notes - Last year's Chiefs registered a so-so 9-9 ATS (against the spread) record but remember KayCee covered six in a row between Week 7 and Week 13. Also, this AFC West squad failed to cover four-of-five games last year when placed in the underdog role after going a collective 8-5 ATS as pups in 2014-15.
MINNESOTA (11-6) - Last year's Vikings finished a shabby 30th in the NFL in passing offense (averaged just 183 aerial yards per game) but we fully expect QB Teddy Bridgewater to be "trusted" more in the upcoming season. Bridgewater - who threw for 3,231 yards with only 14 TDs and 9 INTs a year ago - has plenty of folks still talk about that left-handed interception versus Green Bay late in the year and the fact Minny didn't put the game "in Bridgewater's hands" in that painful 10-9 NFC Wild Card Playoff home loss against Seattle. P.S., don't be shocked if Bridgewater throws for close to 4,000 yards this year providing they take the wraps off him
Pointspread Notes - The Vikes are a sensational 24-9 versus the vig (a .727 winning rate) in two seasons under fiery head coach Mike Zimmer and did you realize that Minnesota is a collective 17-4 ATS when playing non-division foes these past two years? Folks, that's an amazing .809 winning percentage against teams not named Chicago/Detroit/Green Bay since the start of 2014!
THE NBA REPORT
Here's what we have to say about Monday's break-the-internet news that Kevin Durant was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for a two-year, $54.3 million deal with the 73-win Golden State Warriors ... good riddance 'cause you couldn't never seal the deal in Okie City!
Hey, if LeBron James was gonna get all that hate back in the summer of 2010 for "taking his talents to South Beach" than Durant deserves even more heat considering his club blew that best-of-seven Western Conference set with G-State after going up three games-to-one plus now we're hearing word that Durant's inability to "get along" with star point guard Russell Westbrook was a big issue.
Folks, throw out the stats and watch you your eyes tell you: If you were an NBA general manager, you'd rather have Westbrook on your side over Durant who was a shoddy shooter at crunch time in those Game 5, 6 and 7 losses to the Warriors a few weeks back and we've never fully understood why Durant didn't catch more hell from the sports world for never producing a single title in his four trips to the conference finals.
Yes, everyone's now saying you might as well skip this next NBA season and have Cleveland play Golden State for a third straight year in the Finals ... but something tells us the Durant "marriage" in the Bay Area may fall apart faster than you can say Rick Barry.
NOTE: There's plenty of College Football goodies comin' your way soon right here in the pages of Jim Sez.