Holiday Weekend Baseball and NFL Previews Raiders Eagles and Buccaneeers
IT'S A BIG HOLIDAY WEEKEND OF BASEBALL PLUS THERE'S MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES AS WE CHECK OUT THE RAIDERS, EAGLES & BUCS
Let's start off your Fourth of July holiday weekend by hitting the way-back button:
Go back to November 1, 2015 and there's the Kansas City Royals clinching their first World Series triumph in some 30 years, thanks to a four games-to-one Fall Classic win against the New York Mets.
Now, fast forward eight months from that date and here we have the Royals and the Mets fighting for their playoff lives with half a season to go:
The Royals (41-36) entered last night's game in St. Louis some six full games back of the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central race and the Tribe just so happened to have carried a 12-game winning streak into last evening's clash in Toronto ... with this wobbly KayCee starting rotation and oft-overworked bullpen, do you believe the Royals can catch/pass the Tribe in the standings when all the dust settles on this 2016 campaign?
Folks, Ned Yost's team might be playing the rest of the way for the "right" to play in the one-game AL Wild Card Game - likely against Boston or Toronto or Houston - and that's strange stuff for the team that's represented the junior circuit in the last two World Series. P.S., don't forget that KC is a lousy 14-25 on the road this year.
Now check out the floundering Mets:
The defending National League champions rank 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored this year (276 runs) and they wobbled into this weekend's extended four-game home series against the mighty Chicago Cubs having been swept three in a row in Washington and with injuries continuing to pile up (see RF Curtis Granderson's sore hamstring added to 3B David Wright, 1B Lucas Duda and OF Juan Lagares).
Note that the Mets (40-37) right now are on the outside looking in at said NL Wild Card - both Miami and the Los Angeles Dodgers had better won/loss records exiting Wednesday's games - and that Terry Collins' crew is a distant six games back of aforementioned Washington for the NL East lead. Maybe prodigal son Jose Reyes can "save" the Mets' season but, heck, he couldn't even scratch out a couple of hits in minor-league action this week!
Imagine that ... half a season to go and the two World Series entrants from a year ago might well each be playing 80-plus games apiece for the "right" to get into their one-game league wild card tilts.
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES
OAKLAND (7-9) - Only four NFL teams sported worse rushing yards per game averages a year ago that these Raiders (91.1 ypg rushing) and so expect there to be a major microscope on this team's ground game that stars RB Latavius Murray (1,066 yards rushing that included nine carries of 20+ yards last season). The silver-and-black is banking on contributions from the likes of veteran Roy Helu who's battling back from hip woes plus tiny rookie RB DeAndre Washington (Texas Tech) - a 5-foot-7 dynamo - could be a neat change-of-pace back for this rush-starved attack.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, the Raiders are 11-19-1 ATS (against the spread) at home the past four seasons ... maybe another reason they're wanting to move to Las Vegas! Note that last year Oakland banged out a rock-solid 7-3-1 ATS mark when placed in the underdog role.
PHILADELPHIA (7-9) - One of the strangest off-season free-agent signings in all the NFL was the Eagles nabbing backup QB Chase Daniel from Kansas City where new Birds head coach Doug Pederson served as Andy Reid's offensive coordinator. But maybe Daniel - who figures to start off this season behind Sam Bradford and ahead of #2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) on the team's depth chart - could wind up being a significant player here in 2016 despite the fact he's completed just 50 passes for 464 yards with one TD in his NFL career. Stay tuned.
Pointspread Notes - Here's another NFL team with a lousy mark spread mark in recent years as the Eagles are 14-26-1 versus the vig as hosts since the start of the 2011 campaign and that includes their final two home games a year ago against Arizona and Washington.
TAMPA BAY (6-10) - Welcome to the Dirk Koetter Era though who knows how long that might last? Consider that since Jon Gruden exited town following the 2008 season, the Bucs have employed three other heads coaches: Raheem Morris (2009-2011), Greg Schiano (2012-13) and Lovie Smith (2014-15) and none of those gentlemen were able to produce a single playoff berth. One thing the offensive-minded Koetter would like to see is the Bucs shore up a defense that closed out last season by yielding 38, 26, 31 and 24 points in the final four games.
Pointspread Notes - No doubt the Buccaneers staggered to the finish line last year with four consecutive pointspread "L's" in the final four weeks of play but did you know that Tampa Bay is also just 2-6 ATS as betting favorites the past two years?