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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB and CONCACAF Gold Cup Previews and Odds - 07/25/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Jul 25, 2021

The Sunday sports card features action in MLB and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Fifteen games are on the MLB docket. Two games begin the card at 1:05 PM ET. Philadelphia hosts Atlanta as a -180 money line favorite with the total set at 8.5 (all MLB odds from DraftKings). Aaron Nola pitches for the Phillies against Touki Toussaint of the Braves. Baltimore plays at home against Washington as a -120 money line favorite with an over/under of 9.5. The Orioles pitch John Means against the Nationals’ Paulo Espino. Five games start at 1:10 PM ET. Tampa Bay completes their visit at Cleveland as a -150 money-line road favorite with a total of 10. Shane McClanahan pitches for the Rays against Triston McKenzie of the Indians. Cincinnati is at home against St. Louis as a -170 money-line favorite with an over/under of 9.5. Boston hosts the New York Yankees on TBS as a -140 money line favorite with a total of 10.5. Martin Perez pitches for the Red Sox against Domingo German of the Yankees. San Diego plays at Miami as a -155 money line road favorite with an over/under of 6.5. The Padres send out Yu Darvish to pitch against a starting pitcher yet to be named. The New York Mets are at home against Toronto as a -130 money line favorite with a total of 9. New York pitches the newly acquired Rich Hill against the Blue Jays Ross Stripling. Three games start at 2:10 PM ET. Houston plays at home against Texas as a -210 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Astros pitch Zack Greinke against the Rangers Taylor Hearn. Detroit concludes their series at Kansas City as a -115 money line road favorite with a total of 10. Minnesota hosts the Los Angeles Angels as a -115 money line favorite with an over/under of 10. Bailey Ober pitches for the Twins against Jaime Barria of the Angels. The Chicago Cubs are at home against Arizona at 2:20 PM ET as a -180 money line favorite with a total of 8. The Cubs pitch Trevor Williams against the Diamondbacks Caleb Smith. San Francisco is at home against Pittsburgh at 4:05 PM ET as a -170 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Alex Wood pitches for the Giants against J.T. Brubaker of the Pirates. Two games start at 4:10 PM ET. The Los Angeles Dodgers play at home against Colorado as a -180 money line favorite with a total of 8.5. The Dodgers pitch Josiah Gray against the Rockies Jon Gray. Oakland concludes their series with Seattle as a -125 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Cole Irvin pitches for the A’s against Marcos Gonzales of the Mariners. The Chicago White Sox plays at Milwaukee on ESPN at 7:08 PM ET. The White Sox pitch Lance Lynn against the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff. Milwaukee is a -140 money line favorite with a total of 7.The knockout stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup continues with the final two matches in the quarterfinals. Both games take place on FS1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Canada plays Costa Rica at 7 PM ET in a pick ‘em match with an over/under of 2. The United States Men’s National Team plays Jamaica in the nightcap at 9:30 PM ET. The Stars and Stripes are a -1 goal line favorite with a total of 2.5. 

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Saturday MLB: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Indians Preview and Odds - 07/24/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jul 24, 2021

Saturday MLB FS1 Night Preview: Tampa Bay Rays at the Cleveland Indians.The Tampa Bay Rays play at the Cleveland Indians in the second game of the FS1 Saturday doubleheader at 7:10 PM ET. The Rays won the first two games of this weekend series after a 10-5 victory last night. Nelson Cruz banged his 20th home run of the season and his first in a Rays uniform after being acquired in a trade on Thursday. Matt Wisler got the victory for Tampa Bay from two innings pitched in relief.The Rays have won four in a row to raise their record to 59-39. They are in second place in the American League East, one game behind the Boston Red Sox. Tampa Bay continued their activity before the trade deadline next Friday by trading starting pitcher Rich Hill to the New York Mets for pitcher Tommy Hunter and minor league catcher Matt Dyer.Tampa Bay averages 4.9 runs per game, with a .232 batting average, a .309 on-base percentage, and an OPS of .708. Brandon Lowe leads the team with 21 home runs. Randy Arozarena is hitting .254 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs. Auston Meadows has 16 homers and a team-leading 66 RBIs. Manager Kevin Cash opts for Drew Rasmussen to pitch as an opener tonight. The right-hander has only started as an opener one other time this season in his 23 appearances. He has a 0-1 record with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 29 2/3 innings. Ryan Yarbrough is expected to be Cash’s bulk pitcher tonight after pitching on Monday. The lefty has a 6-4 record with a 4.59 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. The Rays’ bullpen has a 3.28 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. They have earned 27 saves and blown ten of their save opportunities. Cleveland got a three-run homer from Jose Ramirez last night in a losing cause. The future Guardians have lost 14 of their last 20 games to fall to a 48-47 mark. The currently-named Indians are in second place in the American League Central, nine games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox. Manager Terry Francona’s team averages 4.3 runs per game, with a .229 batting average, a .291 on-base percentage, and an OPS of .688. Ramirez leads the way with 20 home runs and 56 RBIs. Franmil Reyes has added 17 home runs and 45 RBIs that accompany his .263 batting average. Cesar Hernandez has 16 home runs, 43 RBIs, and a .227 batting average. J.C. Mejia gets the start for Francona after giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start at Houston on Monday. He did strike out a career-high eight batters in that effort. He has a 1-5 record this season with a 7.53 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. The Cleveland bullpen has a 3.52 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP this season. They have earned 25 saves and blown 11 of their save opportunities. DraftKings lists Tampa Bay as a -160 money line road favorite with an over/under of 10.5.

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Saturday MLB: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox Preview and Odds - 07/24/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jul 24, 2021

Saturday MLB FS1 Afternoon Preview: New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox.The Boston Red Sox host the New York Yankees on FS1 at 4:05 PM ET. Boston won the first two games of this series after their 6-2 victory last night. For the second straight night, the Red Sox spotted the Yankees the early lead. Rafael Devers gave Boston the lead with a two-run homer in the fifth inning against Gerrit Cole. Devers then blasted a three-run homer in the seventh inning to extend the Red Sox lead. Yacksel Rios got the win out of the Boston bullpen.The Red Sox have won four straight games to improve their record to 60-38. They are one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East. Boston has trailed in 31 of their 60 victories. They have won nine of their 11 games against the Yankees this season. Manager Alex Cora’s team averages 5.1 runs per game, with a .258 batting average, .317 On-Base Percentage, and an OPS of .761. Xander Bogaerts leads the team with a .312 batting average. He has added 15 home runs and 52 RBIs. Rafael Devers leads the BoSox with 26 homers and 79 RBIs. He is hitting .280. J.D. Martinez is hitting .302 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs.Nathan Eovaldi takes the ball for Boston this afternoon. The right-hander has a 9-5 record with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 19 starts. He pitched last Saturday in Yankee Stadium against New York when he allowed one run and two hits in 5 innings of work. The Red Sox bullpen has a 3.62 ERA and a 1.375 WHIP. The pen has collected 31 saves but blown 13 save opportunities.Last night’s loss lowered the Yankees record to 50-46 on the season. The Bronx Bombers remain in third place in the American League East, nine games behind the Red Sox.New York scores 4.2 runs per game with a .234 batting average, .319 on-base percentage, and an OPS of .714. Aaron Judge leads the team with a .282 batting average, 21 home runs, and 47 runs batted in. Giancarlo Stanton has a .261 batting average, 16 home runs, and 46 RBIs. D.J. LeMahieu has a .266 batting average, seven homers, and 37 RBIs.Manager Aaron Boone turns to Jameson Taillon in his starting rotation. The right-hander comes off 5 1/3 scoreless innings at home against the Red Sox last Sunday night. Taillon has a 5-4 record with a 4.60 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 18 starts. He is supported by a bullpen that has a 3.64 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP. The New York pen has collected 22 saves with 11 blown opportunities. The Yankees are still undermanned from the COVID outbreak that impacted six players last week. Hitters Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka, and Gio Urshela, and pitcher Wandy Peralta remain quarantine. Relievers Nestor Cortes and Jonathan Loaisiga were activated yesterday. First baseman Luke Voigt is still on the disabled list from the knee injury he suffered last week.DraftKings lists Boston as a -180 money line favorite, with the total set at 9.

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CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinals Preview and Odds - 07/24/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jul 24, 2021

Saturday CONCACAF Gold Cup: Quarterfinals Preview.The knockout stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup begins on Saturday with two quarterfinals matches at the University of Phoenix at Glendale, Arizona. El Salvador plays Qatar in the opening match at 7:20 PM ET. La Selecta comes off a 1-0 loss to Mexico last Sunday. Manager Hugo Perez’s team did not need a result in that match after clinching a spot in the quarterfinals with two victories in their opening two matches. El Salvador defeated Guatemala in their first group stage match before beating Trinidad and Tobago by the same score in their second game. They have scored four goals and conceded one time in their three games.La Selecta will be playing their second knockout stage match in their last six Gold Cups. This group may be El Salvador’s best national team in years after a recent successful run in their World Cup qualifying matches. They have eight victories in their last ten matches over a span where they scored 23 goals. They conceded only three times in their most recent ten games, and they have nine clean sheets in their last 13 matches. Seattle Sounders midfielder Alex Roldan offers a creative spark in the midfield. Toronto FC center back Eriq Zavaleta anchors the backline. FIFA ranks El Salvador 69th in the world. The ELO ratings place them 74th.Qatar claimed first place in Group D with a 2-0 victory against Honduras on Tuesday. Homam Ahmed scored their opening goal in the 25th minute before Abdulaziz Hatem scoring the final goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time in the second half. The Maroon opened the tournament with a 3-3 draw with Panama. They defeated Grenada, 4-0, in their second group stage match last Saturday. Qatar has scored nine times in their three games and allowed three goals. The Maroon was a guest to participate in this North American tournament as preparation for their squad when they compete and host the 2021 World Cup next November. Most of the roster consists of club-level players in Qatar. Manager Felix Sanchez’s squad is led by forward Akram Afif, who has scored 19 goals in 64 caps for the national team. Forward Hassan Al-Haydos is the all-time leader in caps with 141. The Maroon entered the event with four straight victories from friendlies and World Cup qualifying matches. FIFA ranks Qatar 58th in the world. The ELO ratings place them 45th in the world. MGM lists Qatar as a -0.5 goal line favorite with a total of 2.Honduras plays Mexico on FS1 at 10:30 PM ET. Los Catrachos had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with two victories in their opening two matches before losing to Qatar, 2-0. They Los opened the tournament with a 4-0 win against Grenada. Honduras followed that up with a 3-2 victory against Panama last Saturday. They have scored seven times and have conceded four goals in their three group stage matches. Los Catrachos competed in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups before not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They finished last in their group in the 2019 Gold Cup with only three points. Honduras finished in third place in the CONCACAF Nations League that concluded last month. Los Catrachos have an experienced back line led by Houston Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa. The 41-year-old captain is the national team’s all-time leader with 168 caps entering this event. Houston Dynamo midfielder Boniek Garcia had 128 caps for the squad when the tournament started. FIFA ranks Honduras 67th in the world. The ELO ratings place them 58th. Mexico won Group B with their victory against El Salvador last Sunday. Luis Alfonso Rodrigo scored their winning goal in the 26th minute. El Tri opened their defense of the 2019 Gold Cup title with a 0-0 draw with Trinidad and Tobago. They followed that up with a 3-0 victory against Guadeloupe. Mexico has scored four goals and has yet to concede a goal in their three matches. Manager Gerardo Martino has assembled most of the nation’s top players to compete in this event. The notable exceptions on the roster were forwards Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Raul Jimenez, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Mexico lost for Napoli forward Hirving “Chucky” Lozano for the tournament after incurring a head injury in the opening match against Trinidad and Tobago. Mexico is led by Porto forward Jesus Corona, Atletico Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera, and Ajax defender Edson Alvarez. El Tri is ranked 11th in the world by FIFA. The ELO ratings place them 15th. MGM lists Mexico as a -1 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.5.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB and CONCACAF Gold Cup Previews and Odds - 07/24/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jul 24, 2021

The Saturday sports card features action in MLB and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Fifteen games are on the MLB docket, with two games starting in the afternoon. The Chicago Cubs host Arizona at 2:20 PM ET. The Cubs send out Alec Mills as their starting pitcher against the Diamondbacks Merrill Kelly. Chicago is a -150 money line favorite (all MLB odds from DraftKings). Boston plays at home against the New York Yankees on FS1 at 4:05 PM ET. The Red Sox pitch Nathan Eovaldi against the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon. Boston is a -165 money line favorite with the total set at 9.Philadelphia is at home against Atlanta at 6:05 PM ET. Vincent Velasquez pitches for the Phillies against the Braves Drew Smyly. Philadelphia is a -125 money line favorite with an over/under of 95. San Diego visits Miami in the third game of their four-game series at 6:10 PM ET. The Padres pitch Ryan Weathers against the Marlins’ Ross Detwiler. San Diego is a -135 money line road favorite with a total of 8. Washington plays at Baltimore in Game 2 of their weekend series at 6:35 PM ET. Max Scherzer pitches for the Nationals against Matt Harvey of the Orioles. Washington is a -210 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9.5.Seven games start at 7:10 PM ET. Tampa Bay visits Cleveland in the third game in their four-game series on FS1. Jean Carlos Mejia pitches for the Indians against a starting pitcher yet to be named. The Rays are a -125 money line road favorite with a total of 9. Houston is at home against Texas as a -195 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Astros pitcher Framber Valdez against the Rangers Kyle Gibson. Milwaukee is at home against the Chicago White Sox as a -125 money line favorite with a total of 7. Corbin Burnes pitches for the Brewers against Carlos Rodon of the White Sox. Minnesota hosts the Los Angeles Angels as a -130 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. The Twins pitch Jose Berrios against the Angels Patrick Sandoval. Toronto is at New York to play the Mets as a -130 money line road favorite with a total of 8. Hyun Jin Ryu pitches for the Blue Jays against Taijuan Walker of the Mets. Kansas City plays at home against Detroit as a -125 money line favorite with an over/under of 10. The Royals pitch Carlos Hernandez against the Tigers’ Carlos Mize. Cincinnati is at home against St. Louis as a -180 money line favorite with a total of 9.5. Luis Castillo pitches for the Reds against Jake Woodford.San Francisco hosts Pittsburgh at 9:05 PM ET. The Giants pitch Kevin Gausman against the Pirates Will Crowe. San Francisco is a -280 money line favorite with a total of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers are at home against Colorado at 9:10 PM ET. Tony Gonsolin pitches for the Dodgers against Kyle Freeland of the Rockies. Los Angeles is a -255 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Oakland plays at Seattle at 10:10 PM ET. The A’s pitch Chris Bassitt against the Mariners Logan Gilbert. Oakland is a -130 money line road favorite with a total of 7.5.The CONCACAF quarterfinals begin on Saturday with two matches at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona. El Salvador plays Qatar on FS2 at 7:20 PM ET. Qatar is a -0.5 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2 at MGM. Honduras plays Mexico on FS1 at 10:30 PM ET. El Tri is a -1 goal line favorite with a total of 2.5.

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2021 CFL Preview: Calgary Stampeders

by Sean Murphy

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

We'll wrap up our 2021 CFL West Division team previews with a perennial Grey Cup contender in the Calgary Stampeders. Here's what you can expect from the Stamps this season.The sky is the limit for Calgary after it went 12-6 and finished second in the West Division in the face of plenty of adversity in 2019. The Stamps were forced to go without QB Bo Levi Mitchell for an extended period and when he returned it was too little, too late as they fell to the eventual Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West semi-final. Mitchell is back healthy and ready to guide an explosive, albeit new-look Stamps offense in 2021. There's reason for concern on the offensive line, which is nothing new in Calgary. With such a prized talent like Mitchell under center, the Stamps need the o-line to be better than just 'good enough' and certainly made a move to bolster that line with the acquisition of center Sean McEwen. As the anchor of the Argos o-line, McEwen played in all 18 games in each season from 2016-2019. RB Ka'Deem Carey will be tasked with taking over the backfield duties from Don Jackson who was lost to free agency. Carey had gotten off to a fine start in 2019 before breaking his arm and missing the remainder of the season. There may not be a lot of household names, but the Stampeders wide receiving corps is brimming with talent. WR Markeith Ambles will make his long-awaited return to the fold after missing the entire 2019 season due to an undisclosed injury. SB Kamar Jorden also missed the bulk of the 2019 season due to an ACL tear but did return for the playoffs. Back in 2018 he racked up 944 receiving yards and caught 10 touchdown passes. No fewer than three former Stampeders defensive starters have moved on to the NFL so there will be plenty of turnover on that side of the football entering 2021 as well. That's not to say the cupboard is bare, however - far from it, in fact. Calgary still boasts plenty of veteran talent led by the likes of SAM LB Jamar Wall, LB Cory Greenwood and DL Derek Wiggan. There are some question marks in the secondary but if the Stamps can apply as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as we think they can, that defensive backfield should hold up just fine. Despite the roster shake-up, Calgary is being given the benefit of the doubt by most sportsbooks, currently priced around 6-1 to win the Grey Cup. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

by Sean Murphy

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

In our fourth installment of 2021 CFL team previews, here's a look at what to expect from the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season.Interestingly, the Blue Bombers narrowly avoided disaster in 2019, finishing the regular season 11-7 before catching fire in the playoffs and running the table on their way to an improbable Grey Cup championship.The Bombers are well positioned to challenge for the Grey Cup again this season with the nucleus from that championship team remaining intact and still under the guidance of head coach Mike O'Shea. In keeping with CFL tradition, the Bombers welcome a former starting quarterback to take over the reins as offensive coordinator with Buck Pierce getting the nod. Pierce takes over from Paul LaPolice, who is now the head coach in Ottawa. LaPolice squeezed every bit of production he could out of this dare-I-say middle of the road offense talent-wise. Can Pierce continue the offense on the same path in 2021?QB Zach Collaros and RB Andrew Harris return to the fold to lead the offense. Both do have plenty of miles on them at this point of their careers, however, and the Bombers will obviously need them to stay healthy to contend in a crowded West Division. I would suggest that Winnipeg doesn't have quite the same wealth of talent at the wide receiver position as perhaps the Lions, Riders and Stampeders possess. Defensively, the Bombers have few weaknesses, keyed by what should once again be one of the league's most-feared pass rushes. That unit is anchored by Willie Jefferson, the league's reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player after leading the CFL in sacks and forced fumbles in 2019. A number of Bombers defensive players trained together in the offseason - you might not find a closer-knit defensive group in the league. Despite serving as defending champions, the Bombers actually enter the 2021 campaign with a chip on their shoulder thanks to some considering their 2019 Grey Cup title a 'fluke'. Of course, the truth is that their title run was anything but a fluke and this team ranks as one of the league's most complete squads heading into the new season.Winnipeg is currently priced around 6-1 to repeat as Grey Cup champions. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB Previews and Odds - 07/23/2021

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

The Friday sports card features action in MLB. Fifteen games are on the MLB docket. One game is on the afternoon MLB slate. The Cubs play at home in Chicago against Arizona at 2:20 PM ET. They pitch Zach Davies against the Diamondbacks’ Zac Gallen. Chicago is a -135 money line favorite (all odds from DraftKings). Two games start at 7:05 PM ET. Philadelphia hosts Atlanta at 7:05 PM ET. Zack Wheeler pitches for the Phillies against Max Fried of the Braves. Philadelphia is a -145 money line favorite with the total set at 7.5. Washington visits Baltimore in the first game of a three-game weekend series. Patrick Corbin pitches for the Nationals against the Orioles Pablo Lopez. Washington is a -140 money line road favorite with an over/under of 10. Five games have scheduled the first pitch for 7:10 PM ET. Tampa Bay plays at Cleveland in the second game of their weekend series. The Rays pitch Rich Hill against the Indians Zac Plesac. Tampa Bay is a -115 money line road favorite with a total of 8.5. San Diego is at Miami in Game 2 of their weekend series. Joe Musgrove pitches for the Padres against Zach Thompson of the Marlins. San Diego is a -165 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. The New York Yankees play at Boston in the second game of their four-game series. The Yankees pitch Gerrit Cole against the Red Sox’s Eduardo Rodriguez. Both teams are listed at -110 with a total of 8.5. Cincinnati is at home against St. Louis in the opening game of their three-game series. Tyler Mahle pitches for the Reds against Wade LeBlanc of the Cardinals. Four games start at 8:10 PM ET. Houston begins a three-game series at home against Texas. The Astros pitch Jake Odorizzi against the Rangers Kolby Allard. Houston is a -240 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. The Los Angeles Angels play at Minnesota in the second game of their four-game series. Alex Cobb pitches for the Angels against J.A. Happ of the Twins. Los Angeles is a -130 money line road favorite with a total of 10. Milwaukee hosts the Chicago White Sox in the opening game of their three-game series. The Brewers pitch Freddy Peralta against Lucas Giolito of the White Sox. Milwaukee is a -125 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.5. Kansas City plays at home against Detroit in Game 1 of their three-game series. Kris Bubic of the Royals pitches against Wily Peralta of the Tigers. Kansas City is a -130 money line favorite with a total of 10.5. San Francisco hosts Pittsburgh in the opening game of their three-game series at 9:45 PM ET. The Giants pitch Johnny Cueto against the Pirates Chad Kuhl. San Francisco is a -180 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Two games close out the MLB card at 10:10 PM ET. Oakland plays at Seattle in the second game of their four-game series. Frankie Montas pitches for the A’s against Yusei Kikuchi of the Mariners. Oakland is a -115 money line road favorite with a total of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers play at home against Colorado in the first game of their weekend series. The Dodgers pitch David Price against the Rockies’ Chi Chi Gonzalez. Los Angeles is a -335 money line favorite with an over/under of 9.5.

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Five NFL Sleepers That Could Win Super Bowl LVI

by Oskeim Sports

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers repeat as Super Bowl champions, it wouldn’t surprise many NFL fans. Should Kansas City find its way back to the big game and win a second Super Bowl in three seasons, that would not surprise many fans either. If Indianapolis won this coming season’s Lombardi Trophy, you can bet that would shock the NFL world.  The Colts are among five teams that could surprise everyone by winning this year’s Super Bowl. Here’s a look at the candidates.   INDIANAPOLIS COLTS  They have the best offensive line in the NFL. The Colts have a running game that punishes opponents and that will make it much easier for new quarterback Carson Wentz to have success in the passing game. Remember, Colts head coach Frank Reich was the Eagles offensive coordinator when Wentz enjoyed his best seasons in Philadelphia.  Indy also has one of the better defenses in the league. The Colts were second against the run (90.5 yards per game) last season and allowed 22.6 points per game (10th overall). With a strong defense, an outstanding running game, and an improved Wentz at quarterback; the Colts have all the makings of a Super Bowl contender.   ARIZONA CARDINALS  It’s make-or-break time for Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. The former Texas Tech head coach who made an unprecedented leap to the NFL needs to make it happen in Year 3. Last season, Kingsbury and the Cardinals were 6-3 after nine games and right in the thick of the NFC playoff race. Then, they finished 2-5.  The talent is there. QB Kyler Murray is outstanding and now he’ll have even more weapons on offense. The Cardinals signed A.J. Green in the offseason and added former Purdue star Rondale Moore in the draft. J.J. Watt comes in to add to a defense that drafted Zaven Collins out of Tulsa. The biggest problem for Arizona is simply their division. The Rams, Seahawks, and 49ers are all potential playoff teams. So are the Cardinals.   LOS ANGELES CHARGERS  The Chiefs continue to dominate the AFC West, but this is the year the Chargers begin to fight back. The biggest reasons for the Chargers' ability to get to a Super Bowl are the play of QB Justin Herbert and the hiring of new head coach Brandon Staley.  Herbert was the Chargers' first pick in last year’s draft. He won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after throwing for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2020. The young Chargers QB has all the makings of a bona fide NFL stud at the position. Without an elite quarterback, teams do not have a chance at winning it all. The Chargers have one, but it’s not just about the quarterback.  Staley brings with him the defense that led the NFL last season in almost every category. Staley was the Rams' former defensive coordinator who has some serious talent in L.A. if he can keep them all healthy. DE Joey Bosa is an All-Pro as is safety Derwin James. The Chargers need to improve on the 27 sacks they recorded in 2020, but Staley will take care of that. If he does, don’t be surprised if the Chargers find their way to the Super Bowl.   DALLAS COWBOYS  Yes, the Cowboys went a disappointing 6-10 in 2020, but remember, they lost starting QB Dak Prescott in Week 5. With Prescott back in the lineup – and with his new four-year, $160 million contract – the Cowboys' offense should once again be among the best in the NFL. Before going down with his injury last season, Prescott had thrown for 450 yards-plus in three consecutive games. In 2019, he finished second in the NFL in passing with 4,902 yards.  Dallas will have to improve on defense, but that is highly likely in 2021. The Cowboys hired new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and brought in players like No. 1 draft pick Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal, Kelvin Joseph, and more. The defense shouldn’t finish 31st against the run in 2021 or 23rd overall and that difference is what can propel the Cowboys to Super Bowl LVI.   CLEVELAND BROWNS  The Browns and the Super Bowl are two things that just don’t go together. Cleveland is one of just four franchises – Detroit, Jacksonville, and Houston are the others – that has never even played in a Super Bowl. This year could be different.  Cleveland went 11-5 last season and won a playoff game in 2020. The Browns have an outstanding running game led by RB Nick Chubb and a roster that is built for the postseason. The club added Jadeveon Clowney in the offseason and will return WR Odell Beckham Jr. who tore an ACL in Week 7 last season. Head coach Kevin Stefanski has all the tools needed to take the Browns a couple of steps further in 2021.  

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MLB - 2nd Half Predictions

by Power Sports

Thursday, Jul 22, 2021

Well, we’re basically a week removed from the All-Star Break, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to make some second half predictions. Some of these takes will be right in line with what I said two months ago. Others (like Milwaukee) have since changed. So here’s what I’m predicting for the second half of the MLB season.At least two teams from the AL East are getting into the postseason. It could be three if Toronto gets its act together. The Blue Jays have the division’s best run differential (+83). The first place Red Sox actually have the third best differential (+63). Tampa Bay is in between, closer to Toronto, at +81. We probably also shouldn’t forget about the Yankees, who have a very similar record to Toronto. But their run differential is way below the other three teams. Thus, I’m not nearly as sold on the team wearing pinstripes.A big key in handicapping this race is that the Blue Jays will resume playing home games in Toronto beginning July 30th. Playing in Dunedin and Buffalo, they’ve averaged a MLB high 5.9 runs per game at home this season, but went only 22-22 in those games. Expect scoring levels to drop at Rogers Centre where in 2019 they averaged just 4.4 rpg. It’s interesting that the Jays are 22-11 in day games and 13-2 in Interleague Play. There are only two American League teams that they have winning records against - Baltimore and Texas. So maybe we shouldn’t totally buy into that run differential? Chicago will run away with the AL Central. Book it. They probably will end up being the first team to clinch a playoff spot in either league. There will be no Wild Card from the Central.I predicted months ago that Houston would run away with the AL West. Right now, they only lead the A’s by three games but that gap is going to get bigger. The Astros are the highest scoring team in baseball and the highest scoring road team. They have the AL’s best run differential and are a playoff lock.Elsewhere in the West, Seattle WILL fall off and finish below .500. They have a -51 run differential entering Thursday’s action. The tremendous luck they’ve experienced in one run games and extra innings is something I’ve previously written about. It has continued, but I sense those records will eventually start to regress. The Mariners hit only .203 at home! They can’t sustain a better than .500 pace with an offense that is that bad.Over in the NL, both Wild Cards will be claimed out West. I’ve been adamant about this from the start of the season. The Dodgers, Giants and Padres are the three best teams in the Senior Circuit. It’s a major dropoff after that. I’m not just speaking about the division, but the entire league. All three teams are in the top five of my power ratings.  Milwaukee has really turned the Central upside-down and could be poised to run away with things. They are the only team in that division to currently have a positive run differential. Their pitching is superb (top five in runs allowed). I do think they are poised to win the division, which is not something I would have been confident in saying a month ago. But a 7.5 game lead seems pretty safe.The NL East remains the most difficult division to handicap in either league. My gut says the Mets, who have been in first place for a while now, are going to take it. But Atlanta now has the best run differential in the East, though they are going to be without Ronald Acuna Jr the rest of the way. The Mets having allowed so few runs gives them the edge though. But continue to monitor Jacob deGrom’s forearm. He’s obviously the predominant reason the Mets are #2 in MLB in runs allowed. It’s a good thing the Mets give up so few runs per game. Because their offense is ranked 29th (2nd worst) in rpg! I still say they make the playoffs though.Put a gun to my head (please don’t!) and I’ll tell you that Astros vs. White Sox is the most likely ALCS matchups. In the National League, the West will cannibalize itself due to the playoff format. The Dodgers are still the team I favor to win the World Series. Top Teams to Bet On (through 7/21):San Francisco +24.5 unitsSeattle +20.3 unitisBoston +15.7 unitsDetroit +13.4 unitsTampa Bay +12.5 unitsWorst Teams to Bet on (through 7/21)Arizona -32.4 unitsMinnesota -24.9 unitsBaltimore -18.1 unitsYankees -16.2 unitsTexas -14.1 units

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2021 Las Vegas Raiders Preview

by Wayne Root

Thursday, Jul 22, 2021

For the 2021 season to be a success, the Raiders MUST: Make the playoffs. Is their HEAT on Jon Gruden??  There was a lot of praise heaped on the Raiders for nearly pulling off the season sweep of the Chiefs last year. But the time for moral victories is over. The Raiders need to reach the postseason. Gruden is one of 14 coaches to coach the same franchise since 2018 -- and he's the only one of those coaches to not make the playoffs in that span. He -- along with the 49ers' Kyle Shanahan -- are the only two to be below .500. Las Vegas has to be playing into mid-January.  What happens if Gruden doesn’t make the playoffs?  He’s halfway thru his $100M contract and Marc Davis loves him. Can’t possibly get fired!!  The Raiders could start out behind the eight ball. Las Vegas has the second-toughest schedule in the first four games of the season -- because the Dolphins (in Week 3) and Chargers (in Week 4) are also challenging games.  Gruden has Josh Jacobs. Dude is the first player in club history to have 2,000 rushing yards in his first two seasons. Is he the answer?  The Raiders have allowed just 57 sacks since 2019, which is tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL. But they traded parts of their offensive line away. How will that affect them?  Can Henry Ruggs -- the first of six receivers selected in the first round in 2020 -- step up in Year 2? Ruggs did have four receptions of more than 40 yards. Will they finally GO DEEP? Or stay conservative?  Last year, some Raiders fans hoped the team was going to make a move for Tom Brady. This year, some of them are pining for Aaron Rodgers.  Does this start to take a toll on Derek? What if the start out 1-3?  What all the Derek Carr doubters seem to miss is that he had one of the best statistical seasons of his NFL life in 2020, with a career-high 101.4 passer rating. His passing-yards-per-attempt mark (7.9) also matched a personal professional best. And he's one of three quarterbacks with 4,000 passing yards and a passer rating over 100 in both 2019 and 2020 -- the other two were Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. Why doesn’t Raiders Nation bow down to him? It’s as if he can’t win them over.   This is a must. Offense will live to see another day if they have one thing.   Defense!!!!!!  In the three seasons since the start of the Gruden Era, Part II, the Raiders have posted the NFL's worst scoring defense, ranking in the bottom three in passing touchdowns and rushing touchdowns allowed over that span. They are last in sacks. Last in third-down percentage. The defense also doesn't create turnovers. It's pretty bad. DC Bradley is going to be charged with rebuilding this thing. Some might want to just knock the whole thing over and rebuild from scratch -- like they did when they knocked down the Las Vegas Club and built Circa.  The Raiders' defense has not been kind to Derek Carr. Here is how the Raiders' defenses have ranked in scoring during the years since Carr was drafted in 2014: 2014: Last 2015: 22nd 2016: 20th 2017: 20th 2018: Last 2019: 24th 2020: 30th  Get help from the rebuilt pass defense? Bradley is great at working with secondaries. I mean, he was the Lex Luthor of the famed Legion of Boom -- which is perfect casting, like way better than Jesse Eisenberg (no disrespect). The key will be getting the most out of Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen. Arnette was a first-round pick last year, but he's likely to be feeling a little heat from offseason free-agent signee Casey Hayward. Hayward played for Bradley with the Chargers and would offer a bit more consistency than the Raiders have had in recent years.  The current Raiders depth chart in the secondary is filled with first- and second-round picks from the last three years. You have Mullen (second in 2019), Johnathan Abram (first in 2019), Arnette (first in 2020) and safety Trevon Moehrig, a second-round pick in 2021. This is a good place to note the team used five of its seven picks in 2021 on defensive players.   Note: Even if the defense starts to come around, they still play KC and San Diego twice. And if Denver get the QB clicking, how will the Raiders ever make the playoffs???

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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB Previews and Odds - 07/22/2021

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Jul 22, 2021

The Thursday sports card features action in MLB. Nine games are on the MLB docket. Detroit hosts Texas in the final game of their four-game series in this getaway game at 1:10 PM ET. The Tigers have won six straight games after beating the Rangers yesterday, 4-2. Texas has lost eight in a row. Detroit pitches Tyler Alexander against Texas’ Mike Foltynewicz. The Tigers are a -135 money line favorite with the total set at 9 (all odds from DraftKings). Atlanta travels to Philadelphia to begin a four-game weekend series at 7:05 PM ET. The Braves have lost four of their six games after dropping the first game of their seven-inning doubleheader at home against San Diego, 3-2, on Wednesday. They were trailing to the Padres by a 5-4 score before the game got suspended due to rain. The Phillies lost their second game in a row after their 6-5 extra-inning loss in New York to the Yankees yesterday. Charlie Morton pitches for Atlanta against Matt Moore of the Phillies. The Braves are a -145 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. Tampa Bay visits Cleveland to begin their four-game weekend series at 7:10 PM ET. The Rays lost their second game in their last three after a 5-4 loss to Baltimore yesterday. The Indians won their third game in their last five with a 5-4 victory at Houston on Wednesday. Tampa Bay pitches Luis Patino against the Indians’ Cal Quantrill. The Rays are a -145 money line road favorite with a total of 9.5. San Diego travels to Miami to begin a four-game weekend series at 7:10 PM ET. The Padres have won three of their last five games after winning the afternoon opening half of their doubleheader with the Braves. The Marlins ended a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win at Washington yesterday. Blake Snell pitches for the Padres against a starting pitcher yet to be named for Miami.Boston plays at home against the New York Yankees in the opening game of their four-game weekend series. The Yankees won their fourth game in a row with their extra-innings victory against the Phillies on Wednesday. The Red Sox won their second in a row with a 7-4 victory at Toronto yesterday. The Yankees pitch Jordan Montgomery against Boston’s Tanner Houck. The Red Sox are a -120 money line favorite with an over/under of 10.St. Louis plays at home in the final game of their four-game series with the Chicago Cubs at 7:15 PM ET. The Cardinals won their fourth game in their last five with a 3-2 victory in extra innings yesterday. Chicago lost for the third time in their last five. Kwang Hyun Kim pitches for St. Louis against Adbert Alzolay of the Cubs. The Cardinals are a -135 money line favorite with a total of 8.5.Minnesota is at home against the Los Angeles Angels in the opening game of a four-game weekend series at 8:10 PM ET. The Twins ended a two-game losing streak with a 7-2 win at Chicago against the White Sox yesterday. The Angels have lost three in a row after a 6-0 shutout loss at Oakland on Tuesday. Los Angeles pitches Andrew Heaney against Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda. The Twins are a -140 money line favorite with an over/under of 9.Oakland visits Seattle to begin a four-game weekend series at 10:10 PM ET. The A’s won their fifth game in their last seven after their win against the Angels on Tuesday. The Mariners' two-game winning streak ended with a 6-3 loss at Colorado yesterday. Sean Manaea pitches for Oakland against Chris Flexen of Seattle. The A’s are a -135 money line road favorite with a total of 8. The Los Angeles Dodgers are at home against San Francisco in the final game of their four-game series. The Giants won their second game in their last three games with their 4-2 victory in Game 3 yesterday. The Dodgers lost their third game in four. Anthony DeSclafani pitches for San Francisco against Walker Buehler for Los Angeles. The Dodgers are a -165 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.5.

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