Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE BASEBALL REPORT:
CAN WE EXPECT ANY SECOND-HALF-OF-THE-SEASON
SURGES FROM TEAMS BACK IN THE PACK? …
OUR FINAL NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM ACCOUNT:
IT’S THE BENGALS AND THE SB CHAMPION EAGLES
Check out the Major-League Baseball standings today and you’ll see everyone’s played 90-plus games – and if you ask a whole bunch of folks they’ll be quick to tell you that the American League’s playoff spots are practically sealed up already while the National League already has dismissed a half-dozen or so teams from its post-season chase.
But right here / right now our question is what teams we might expect to experience a “second-half surge” – and we have three candidates:
MINNESOTA (41-49) – Okay, so the Twins are 8.5 games back of the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians and assuredly out of any wild card race but manager Paul Molitor’s team really hasn’t sported any hot streak yet and Minny fans are just itchin’ for this offense to perk up: Right now the Twins rank 10th in the league in runs scored and 12th in the AL in total home runs but we say this lineup’s better than that, plus don’t be surprised if Minnesota swoops in and grabs a bit bat prior to the July 31st Trade Deadline … did anyone say Miami 1B Justin Bour is on the market?
PITTSBURGH (43-49) – Go ahead and claim this is a “transition year” for the Pirates who last off-season traded away the likes of RHP Gerrit Cole and OF Andrew McCutchen. Hey, the Buccos have a winning record inside the NL Central (see 18-16) and we say OFs Sterling Marte (team-high 47 runs scored) and Corey Dickerson (team-best .344 on-base percentage) are quite capable of heating up alongside OF Gregory Polanco (13 HR, 47 RBI – both team highs) and playing a batch of same-division teams will help the cause.
SAN FRANCISCO (49-46) – Say this for the Giants: Save for two years ago, this NL West club has owned the even-numbered years this decade with World Series titles in 2010, ’12 and ’14 and you might be making way for another championship trophy if/when San Fran can lay its collective hands on a power bat. The Jints currently rank 12th in the NL in home runs (89) and 12th in the senior circuit in runs scored (382) but we keep hearing that Baltimore SS Manny Machado might be a viable option and there’s also some rumblings regarding Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas. If both bats find their way to the general vicinity of McCovey’s Cove, watch out for a major second-half surge.
Here’s a note …
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We finish up our NFL team-by-team summer accounts right here today – and we’re quick to remind you there’s extensive NFL and NCAA Football coverage all summer long right here at Jim Sez as we dissect college conferences/teams and constantly update the NFL action. Plus, we get you some key pointspread info to boot and note a team’s SU (straight-up) record is listed next to the team name. Here’s the Cincinnati Bengals and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
CINCINNATI (7-9) – If you listen to the talk comin’ from the Bengals’ headquarters, then get ready for your basic two-headed running back system though Joe Mixon (at first) is expected to garner more carries than the multi-faceted Giovani Bernard. In fact, Bengals’ offensive coordinator Bill Lazor likes both backs as pass-catchers: Last year Mixon caught 30 passes (out of 34 targeted throws) for 287 yards while Bernard caught 43 balls among the 60 passes targeted for him while gaining 389 yards. Both RBs are expected to get more touches than last year now that the Bengals have beefed up their offensive line with new LT Cordy Glenn and rookie C Billy Price (The Ohio State University).
Pointspread Notes – Go ahead and bash the Bengals all you’d like but just remember that this AFC North crew is a collective 21-12-1 ATS (against the spread) when in the underdog role while dating back to the start of the 2013 campaign. Cincinnati covered six-of-nine games last year when gobbling up points and that included outright winners at 2.5-point favorite Denver, 3-point fav Detroit and at 8-point chalk-eater Baltimore (who can forget that Week 17 doozy!).
PHILADELPHIA (16-3) – Saved the best (team) for last here in our Jim Sez team-by-team accounts and so let’s get a state of the union look at the Super Bowl 52 champs: Safety Malcolm Jenkins is expected to be a full-time participant in the team’s upcoming camp after undergoing thumb surgery in March; veteran Darren Sproles (knee and arm) is being listed as the #1 option on kick returns after missing the club’s most recent OTAs; and Super Bowl hero LB Brandon Graham (ankle surgery in early May) is expected to be healthy for the team’s season-opening game against Atlanta on Thursday, Sept. 6th. In case you’re wondering, right now the Eagles are listed as a 3.5-point betting favorite for that opener against the Falcons.
Pointspread Notes – All hail last year’s conquering Super Bowl heroes who banged out a spiffy 13-6 ATS mark that featured back-to-back-to-back post-season covers against Atlanta, Minnesota and New England (and all as underdogs). The Eagles actually covered 10-of-13 games against non-NFC East competition last year and overall Philly’s 18-8 ATS in non-divisional games dating back to late in the 2015 season.
NOTE: Our Major-League Baseball Report Cards are comin’ your way this weekend with the National League set for Friday’s column and the American League in Saturday’s column space.