Giants versus Redskins
The Washington Redskins have only four days to pick themselves up after a late collapse and a crushing defeat that dealt a jarring blow to their postseason hopes. Losers of two in a row and four of their last five, Washington faces what basically amounts to a must-win scenario when it hosts the New York Giants on Thanksgiving night. The Giants versus Redskins will be broadcast at 8:30 pm on NBC. Play this game as part of Thanksgiving GoW cross sports contest starting at 7:30pm ET.
The Redskins blew a 15-point lead in the final six minutes of an eventual 34-31 overtime loss to New Orleans and dropped to 11th place in the NFC — two games out of the final playoff slot. New York has been relegated to spoiler since opening the season with five consecutive losses, but it halted a three-game skid with a 12-9 overtime victory over AFC West-leading Kansas City on Sunday.
ABOUT THE GIANTS (2-8)
New York put forth a strong defensive effort, limiting Kansas City to three field goals after surrendering a staggering 106 points during its three-game slide. The Giants won despite Eli Manning completing 54.3 percent of his passes and throwing for only 205 yards while failing to toss a touchdown pass for the first time since the season opener. Running back Orleans Darkwa rushed for at least 70 yards for the third consecutive week and added a touchdown on 20 carries, but none of the team’s receivers had more than three catches on Sunday. Safety Landon Collins led to strong defensive effort by intercepting a pass and recording a career-best 14 tackles.
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (4-6)
Washington wasted a superb effort by Kirk Cousins, who threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions against the Saints. Cousins will be without some of his best weapons as Chris Thompson, who leads the team in touchdowns, rushing and receptions, was lost for the season after suffering a broken fibula on Sunday. Wideout Terrelle Pryor was placed on injured reserve, tight end Jordan Reed remains a question mark and the offensive line could be without three starters and the top two centers. Rookie Samaje Perine ran for a season-high 117 yards, but the defense has allowed at least 33 points in the past four losses.
Ole Miss versus Mississippi State
Although Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald had already emerged as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country well prior to last season’s Egg Bowl, his record-breaking rushing performance in that contest pretty much cemented that label. The dangerous junior signal-caller looks to maintain the 17th-ranked Bulldogs’ recent dominance in their Thanksgiving Day rivalry game with Ole Miss when they host the Rebels. Ole Miss versus Mississippi State will be broadcast at 7:30 pm on ESPN. Play this game as part of Thanksgiving GoW cross sports contest starting at 7:30pm ET.
Fitzgerald accounted for 367 total yards – including a school-record 258 yards on the ground – and five total touchdowns (two rushing) in last year’s 55-20 thrashing of Ole Miss, allowing Mississippi State to avenge a defeat in 2015 and take home the Golden Egg Trophy for the fifth time in eight tries under coach Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs reached the eight-win mark for the fifth time under Mullen following last weekend’s 28-21 thrilling victory at Arkansas, getting two touchdown passes from Fitzgerald over the final 3:57 to pull it out. Win or lose, the Rebels will be playing their final game of the season as a result of a self-imposed postseason ban, which came in February after the NCAA found the program committed multiple violations under former coach Hugh Freeze. Ole Miss guaranteed itself its second straight non-winning season after losing at home to Texas A&M 31-24 over the weekend.
ABOUT OLE MISS (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
A.J. Brown finished with seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies; the 6-2, 225-pound sophomore wideout leads the conference in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,085) and receiving TDs (10). Senior running back Jordan Wilkins, who rushed for a season-high 147 yards on a career-high 19 carries last weekend and is averaging 108.2 yards on the ground over his last four outings, is 99 yards shy of becoming the Rebels’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Dexter McCluster in 2009. Gary Wunderlich is on the verge of breaking multiple school records, needing one more field goal, two more points and one more successful point-after try to break Jonathan Nichols’ career marks in each category.
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-3, 4-3)
Fitzgerald extended his own SEC record for 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback to 14 after rushing for 101 against the Razorbacks and needs only 52 more yards to move past ex-Bulldog Dak Prescott (2,521) and into third place on the conference’s all-time rushing list from a quarterback. Since totaling 73 yards on the ground in back-to-back losses to Georgia and Auburn at the end of September, Aeris Williams is averaging 89.2 yards rushing over his last six outings and needs 56 more to reach 1,000 for the season. Despite giving up two sacks versus Arkansas, the Bulldogs have allowed a league-low eight – tied for the fourth-best mark in the country.
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NFL Football 2017-18 Season
NFC East Division Preview
With the days and weeks of summer ticking by, the arrival of a new NFL season continues to approach. Fans still have to wait until September 7th for Kansas City and New England to kick off in Gillette Stadium, but they don’t have to wait much longer for pre-season football starting August 3rd at FanPicks. To get you ready for the new season, here’s the outlook of NFC East teams.
The plan for Dak Prescott last season was for him to sit, watch and learn behind Tony Romo. But the Cowboys’ best-laid plans blew up in training camp when backup quarterback Kellen Moore broke his right leg and, three weeks later, Romo fractured his back. Prescott, a fourth-round selection, had arguably the best rookie season by a quarterback in NFL history and won Offensive Rookie of the Year over teammate Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott pushed Romo into retirement, with the Cowboys handing the keys to the youngster. Moore, who missed all of last season, re-signed. The 27-year-old veteran is a favorite of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie, gaining 1,631 yards and earning six MVP votes. Elliott could contribute more in the passing game after the free-agent departure of third-down back Lance Dunbar. The Cowboys aren’t worried about Elliott’s workload after giving him 354 touches last season. Elliott had 322 carries and 32 receptions in 716 offensive snaps in the regular season. He played another 56 snaps with 23 touches in the postseason. (DeMarco Murray had 449 touches on 782 snaps in 2014 for the Cowboys when he led the league in rushing.) Elliott gained 833 yards and scored seven touchdowns on 166 first-half carries — a 5.02 average per carry — and 922 yards and eight touchdowns on 178 carries in the second half and overtime, a 5.18 average per carry.
Receivers Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams combined for 169 receptions, 2,223 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. They rank among the best units in the league. While Bryant remains their big-play receiver, Prescott found a security blanket in Beasley, who led the team in receptions (75) and receiving yards (833) for the first time. The Cowboys re-signed Brice Butler as their fourth receiver and added North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer in the draft. Switzer is a Beasley lookalike and will likely replace Lucky Whitehead.
Veteran tight end Jason Witten signed a new deal in the offseason that virtually assures he will finish his career with the Cowboys. Although he played all 16 games for a 13th consecutive season, Witten isn’t the same Pro Bowl tight end he once was.
New York Giants
One of the biggest selling points for hiring Ben McAdoo as Tom Coughlin’s replacement a year ago for the head coach position was the fact that the Giants’ offense finished in the top 10 in both of his seasons as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Eli Manning was thriving and the Giants didn’t want to lose that momentum. So imagine their shock when they finished 25th in the league in total offense in 2016 and averaged less than 20 points per game.
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has emerged as one of the top playmakers in the game, but the Giants became overly reliant on the All-Pro from LSU. He suffered through a nightmarish performance against Green Bay in his first career playoff game. The Giants need to diversify. Gone is Victor Cruz, who just wasn’t his old self after knee and calf surgeries. In is Brandon Marshall, the big ex-Jet who at 6’4″ is the tallest regular receiver they’ve had since the days of Plaxico Burress (6’5″) and Amani Toomer (6’3″). Manning has been desperate for a big target, especially in the red zone. Marshall and slot receiver Sterling Shepard should take plenty of defensive attention away from Beckham.
The Giants also added speedy tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the draft. Engram is really more of a receiver, but he will replace the unreliable Will Tye and Larry Donnell as a deep option over the middle and provide another weapon who can free up Beckham. Also, the speedy Paul Perkins is taking over for the aging Rashad Jennings at running back, and the hope is that his emergence will force defenses to concentrate on the run more in 2017.
Quarterback Carson Wentz set an NFL rookie record for most completions in a season (379) while posting the fourth-most passing yards (3,782) for a first-year player in league history. He started every game, and while his completion percentage dipped as the season progressed and he had some issues with mechanics, Wentz’s rookie season was a success by any measure.
The Eagles decided during the offseason to invest their limited salary cap space on some receivers for him to target. Last year’s crop of wideouts was disappointing, and that’s being kind. Second-year man Nelson Agholor was overmatched, to the point where he was a healthy scratch one week. Dorial Green-Beckham was wildly inconsistent, and even though Jordan Matthews caught 73 balls, he averaged a meager 11.0 yards per reception. So, the Eagles went shopping and purchased Alshon Jeffery for $14 million for one season and Torrey Smith for $15 million over three seasons. They also added a couple of prospects via the draft.
As usual, Zach Ertz looked good at the end of 2016, when the games didn’t matter, and led the team with 78 receptions. But he must become more consistent and deliver in more important situations.
By the end of last year, the Eagles’ running back situation was a mess. Ryan Mathews’ neck injury made him unlikely to return. Faced with the prospect of heading into 2017 with Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood as their holdovers, the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount late in the spring. While Sproles is a veteran hybrid unable to handle many carries, and second-year man Smallwood also lacks size, Blount gives Philadelphia a big back who can get tough yards, especially in the red zone.
Despite the gaudy numbers the offense produced in 2016 — when the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in total yards and second in passing yards — there will still be major changes this season, among them a new coordinator (Matt Cavanaugh, promoted from quarterbacks coach), a new primary play caller (head coach Jay Gruden), a new quarterbacks coach (newly hired Kevin O’Connell) and a rebuilt wide receiver corps, with Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson (who combined for 2,046 receiving yards last season) now gone, and Terrelle Pryor on board as the top playmaker. Pryor was an early target for the Redskins, who are desperate to improve their ugly red zone numbers from a year ago. A former standout QB in college, Pryor has completed his transformation to receiver. Last season, he caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards as the top target in Cleveland.
For a long time, it appeared that quarterback Kirk Cousins, coming off a Pro Bowl season, could join the Redskins’ exodus, but after entertaining options ranging from a lengthy contract extension to a blockbuster trade, the team settled on the middle ground of franchise-tagging him for the second year, at a cost of $24 million. Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012, has started 16 games in each of the last two seasons. Last year, he threw for 4,917 yards with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 67.0 percent of his attempts.
If this is Cousins’ last shot at winning big in D.C., he will at least be surrounded by solid pieces, including the electrifying Pryor at wide receiver; Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis at tight end; a running back corps that includes incumbent starter Rob Kelley, fourth-round pick Samaje Perine and third-down back Chris Thompson.
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NFC East biggest needs in the 2017 NFL Draft
The Cowboys look like they have long-term stability, while the other three teams in the division are looking for an identity
The Dallas Cowboys returned to on-field relevance in 2016 on the back of two outstanding rookies and elite offensive line play. Suffice to say, the 2016 NFL Draft was kind to them. The other three teams in their division would all love to have the same luck in this year’s draft – and all three need it. The Eagles are in the middle of a rebuild, the Giants are still looking for parts to make everything work and the Redskins appear to be a soap opera gone wrong. There is plenty of talent available in the 2017 NFL Draft, and all four NFC East squads will be in position to acquire players on April 27th who can change the fortunes – both long- and short-term – of their franchises.
Dallas knew what they were getting when they drafted Ezekiel Elliott. What they didn’t know was what would happen when Tony Romo went down with a back injury during the preseason. Enter Dak Prescott, and as we all found out, the Cowboys had caught lightning in a bottle. Prescott was the spot on combination of athletic player and cautious game-manager. He led Dallas to the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs. Unfortunately, Dallas’ dream season ended in a shootout against a red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
The Cowboys are in the very fortunate position of not really needing anything. The could be helped by a productive edge rusher, another solid cornerback or the addition of some depth and a possible future starter at offensive tackle. They also could look for a capable heir to Jason Witten at tight end. They’ll have plenty of options – even picking as late as they do in the first round – to land a prospect who will fit one of those roles.
First-round pick: No. 28 overall
Potential picks: It all depends on the direction they go. If they are looking for a pass-rushing defensive end, Auburn’s Carl Lawson could be their guy. At corner, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau makes sense. Miami tight end David Njoku also is an intriguing choice.
New York Giants
The Giants have made it to the playoffs after a roller-coaster season of early drama, late injuries and an inability to get into the end zone. Eli Manning topped 4,000 yards passing again, but it was not one of the more impressive campaigns of his career. On defense, the Giants looked to be without a true leader or playmaker. That cost them against some of the league’s higher-octane offenses.
The Giants had a hard time scoring in 2016, never hanging more than 28 points on the board in any one game. You simply are not going to be able to consistently contend with the likes of Green Bay, Dallas or Atlanta with an offense that cannot finish. They brought in Brandon Marshall in free agency, and he’ll make a fine No. 2 option to Odell Beckham Jr., What this offense is missing, however, is a reliable tight end. A serious threat over the middle would open a lot of other options up for the Giants. Unfortunately, the all-important left tackle position also is somewhat unresolved.
First-round pick: No. 23 overall
Potential picks: If the Giants want to gamble, they can probably get their tight end in the second round. In that case, they would likely go left tackle and select either Utah’s Garrett Boles or Alabama’s Cam Robinson. If they choose to reach for a tight end early, Ole Miss’ Evan Engram would be a nice addition to the offense.
The season began with promise for the Eagles, led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. After Week 3 however, it quickly became apparent how far the team still had to go to become realistic contenders in its own division. Wentz had no consistent receiver to target and a revolving door at running back. Defensively, the Eagle defense had a hard time matching up with the better passing attacks in the league. The receiver problem was addressed in free agency, so now the Eagles need to focus on shoring up the running back position and solidifying their secondary. Adding some depth to the interior of the defensive line also is on the list of things to do.
First-round pick: No. 14 overall
Potential picks: The smart move would be to select the best corner available – likely Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey or Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzi. That said, it will be tough for the Eagle brass to fight the urge to take Florida State running back Dalvin Cook or LSU’s Leonard Fournette if either on falls to them.
Washington was nothing short of dysfunctional down the stretch, losing four of its last six games. The problem with looking back to last season is that, perhaps more than any other team in the league, the Redskins of 2017 are going to be a completely different version of what we saw last year. Between a polarizing owner, the firing of a general manager and the saga of Kirk Cousins and his desire to leave town, the Redskins are quite simply a mess. The Redskins need to be proactive in the Cousins situation and hedge their bets with a long-term option at quarterback at some point. Additionally, they’ll need targets for that quarterback to throw to. Linebacker and guard also are two positions of need going forward, regardless of who is taking the snaps.
First-round pick: No. 17 overall
Potential picks: If it’s going to be a quarterback, I don’t see any way it’s not Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. He’s the most reliable option at the position in the draft. If they decide to go receiver, Washington’s John Ross is a guy who might remind some Redskin fans of Santana Moss. If they are looking for a bigger, more traditional No. 1 receiver, they are better off waiting until the second round and potentially grabbing Penn State’s Curtis Godwin. Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp also is in play.
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MLB 2017 Season Preview
National League West
FanPicks examines the National League West division for the upcoming Major League Baseball season. Get ready for fantasy baseball.
The D-backs have the core of a strong offense with do-it-all Paul Goldschmidt, power bats in Jake Lamb and Yasmany Tomas and speed/power guy A.J. Pollock, whose absence had a lot to do with the team’s unexpected struggles a year ago. For the D-backs to have any kind of chance in the stacked NL West, however, their young starters behind Zack Greinke will need to take another step forward, and signed free-agent Fernando Rodney must thrive as the closer.
Being in contention is realistic if the young rotation continues to improve and the bullpen, unlike last year, becomes an asset. And the bullpen should be better with the addition of Mike Dunn and the return of Jairo Diaz as well as young pitching prospects like Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, who could be moved temporarily to the bullpen to fortify that area.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Going into the offseason, the Dodgers’ goal was simple — keep as much of the roster intact as possible. They went 3-for-3 in the most important parts of that process, re-signing Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill. Given the likelihood of better health this year, another year of maturity for the young players like Corey Seager and the fruits of a loaded farm system, the Dodgers appear to be the most obvious threat to the Chicago Cubs’ reign over the National League.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants remain one of the league’s most stable and successful franchises. They should receive plenty of quality innings from their rotation along with clean defensive games from a dynamic infield — a great recipe for getting leads, winning series and marching back to October.
San Diego Padres
Petco Park is a great place for fans to enjoy craft beer and good food. Sadly, good baseball doesn’t appear to be on the menu anytime soon as the Padres trot out a young team. Yes, it’ll be great for fans who like to see top prospects. Manager Andy Green suggested late last year that everyone “embrace the process.” That’s not exactly what most fans want to hear after watching too much losing ball over the decades. There will be far more growing pains than big moments.
NFL Playoff Game
New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers Preview
Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved to be a man of his word when he told reporters that the Green Bay Packers were capable of running the table to secure a NFL playoff game. Six straight wins led to the eighth straight postseason appearance for Green Bay, which looks to remain on the fast track when it hosts the New York Giants on Sunday in an NFC wild card matchup at Lambeau Field (Enter contest).
Rodgers tossed 15 of his NFL-best 40 touchdown passes during the Packers’ winning streak. The 33-year-old recorded his second straight four-TD performance in Sunday’s 31-24 victory over Detroit, securing the NFC North title for his team and conference Player of the Month honors to boot. While Green Bay has been a staple in the playoffs, New York is making its first postseason appearance since it posted a victory over the Packers in the divisional round of the 2011-12 playoffs en route to upending New England in Super Bowl XLVI. Eli Manning, who has won eight of his last nine playoff starts, completed just 18-of-35 passes for 199 yards in a 23-16 loss to Green Bay on October 9.
ABOUT THE GIANTS (11-5)
The flashy Odell Beckham Jr. (NFL third-best 101 receptions for 1,367 yards) and fellow wideout Victor Cruz were quick to dismiss Monday’s celebrity-filled off-day trip to Miami rather claiming that it was any sort of distraction heading into the playoff game. Beckham had five receptions among his team-high 12 targets and found the end zone in the waning moments of the first meeting with the Packers. Cruz, on the other hand, was held without a catch. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after reeling in two of his NFL second-best six interceptions in a 19-10 victory over Washington on Sunday.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (10-6)
Jordy Nelson recorded one of his NFL-best 14 touchdowns this season against the Giants. But Randall Cobb won the reception battle the last time around with nine receptions for 108 yards. The speedy wideout participated in both practices this week after missing the last two games with a left ankle injury. Fellow wide receiver Davante Adams, who also had a highlight-reel TD grab versus New York in the first meeting, had two touchdowns against the Lions last week and has five scoring receptions in his last five games at home.
Cincinnati Bengals vs New York Giants
Trying to keep pace with the surprising Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East, the New York Giants go for their fourth consecutive victory when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night (Enter Contest). The Giants have rebounded from a three-game skid by sandwiching a pair of home wins around a “road” victory at London to remain two games off the division lead. New York is coming off a 28-23 victory over Philadelphia, continuing a trend of being able to win the close games. All five victories have come by a margin of 20 points.
Prior to last week’s bye, Cincinnati played in London and came away with a 27-27 tie with Washington. They are looking to close the gap with the first-placed Baltimore Ravens (5-4) in the AFC North. Coach Marvin Lewis’ team have been held to 17 points or fewer in each of its losses.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (3-4-1)
Quarterback Andy Dalton has a streak of four straight games with a 100-plus passer rating snapped in London, but he has thrown for 2,349 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have both rushed for a TD in each of the last two games. Star wide receiver A.J. Green is second in the NFL with 896 yards, including three games with at least 169 yards, and the offense received an added boost with the return of tight end Tyler Eifert against the Redskins. Eifert had 13 touchdowns last season and showed what a difference-maker he can be in his first start with nine catches for 102 yards and a score. Cincinnati’s defense has been vulnerable through the air, allowing an average of 262.4 yards. Cincinnati has lost three in a row at the Giants, but beat the Jets 23-22 at MetLife Stadium in the season opener.
ABOUT THE GIANTS (5-3)
Quarterback Eli Manning is coming off a four-touchdown performance against Philadelphia, the third time he has tossed at least three scoring passes in a game this season, but he also was picked off twice for the third time. Like Cincinnati, the Giants have a stud wideout in Odell Beckham, who caught a pair of scoring passes against the Eagles to give him five in the past four games. The biggest problem for the Giants has been a stagnant running game led by Rashad Jennings that ranks last in the league with a meager average of 68.3 yards per game. Rookie Paul Perkins could see more time this week to help work the clock and protect a defense that yields 277.4 yards passing. New York last won four straight games during the 2013 season.
MLB National League Division Series
Giants vs Cubs Game 3 (2-0 for Chicago)
Madison Bumgarner looks to continue his impressive postseason success and keep the San Francisco Giants alive when they host the Chicago Cubs on Monday (Enter Contests) in Game 3 of their MLB National League Division Series. The left-hander is 5-1 with one save and a 0.88 ERA in eight contests over his last two postseasons (2014 and 2016) after shutting out the New York Mets 3-0 in the Wild-Card Game on Wednesday. He won both regular-season starts against the Cubs this year.
ABOUT THE GIANTS
Madison Bumgarner (2016 playoffs: 1-0, 0.00) baffled the Mets with a four-hitter, striking out six and walking a pair in improving his career postseason numbers to 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. The 27-year-old cooled off in the second half of the regular season as well, going 5-5 with a 3.80 ERA after posting a 10-4 record and 1.94 ERA before the All-Star break. Bumgarner went 9-4 with a 2.14 ERA at home this year and has fared well against the Cubs in his career (8-2, 2.25).
The Giants, who face elimination after winning 11 straight postseason series, scored just two runs over the first two games while Chicago’s pitchers have driven in three with their bats. They’ve won nine straight elimination games, the longest such streak in major-league history.
ABOUT THE CUBS
Chicago turns to Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA), who went 11-3 on the road this season and split a pair of starts against San Francisco while posting a 2.08 ERA. The reigning N.L. Cy-Young winner posted a 12-2 record and 2.10 ERA through June but split his final 12 decisions, going 2-3 with a 4.60 ERA in September. Arrieta , who has 40 wins to his credit over the last two seasons, owns a 4-2 mark with a 1.82 ERA in six career starts versus the Cubs. The 30-year-old TCU product has held Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt to a combined 2-for-38.
Angel Pagan is 5-for-11 against Arrieta. Javier Baez is 3-for-6 with a homer in the series and the Cubs received a run-scoring single in the first inning of Saturday’s 5-2 win from Ben Zobrist, who is 6-for-12 lifetime against Bumgarner. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who belted 32 homers and knocked in 109 runs during the regular season, went 0-for-7 in the first two games. Chicago has gone 2-4 in six games at San Francisco over the last two years and went 46-34 on the road during the regular season.
National League Division Series
Giants vs Cubs Game 1
The Chicago Cubs led the majors with 103 regular-season victories but that doesn’t guarantee them rare postseason success when they open the National League Division Series on Friday against the visiting San Francisco Giants (Enter Contests). Chicago was swept out of the playoffs last season in the NL Championship Series by the New York Mets and hasn’t won the World Series since 1908.
About the Cubs
Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44) will throw the first pitch in the series for Chicago. The 32-year-old was superb at home this season with a 10-2 mark and 1.74 ERA and that helped make him an easy Game 1 choice for the Cubs. Lester, who is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five career starts against the Giants, dropped both turns last postseason for the Cubs but is 6-6 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 career appearances (14 starts).
The Cubs are led by budding superstar third baseman Kris Bryant, the probable NL MVP after having 39 homers and 102 RBIs in his second big-league season. Despite that, Bryant (6-for-34, two home runs) and first baseman Anthony Rizzo (6-for-32, two homers) struggled in the 2015 postseason. The Cubs won four of the seven regular-season meetings with two of their defeats coming against Giants ace LH Madison Bumgarner.
About the Giants
Giants starter Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79) went 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA over his final four outings to reach the third-highest victory total of his nine-year career. The 30-year-old is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA in seven career postseason starts and struggled badly in his first three outings in last year’s postseason with Kansas City before coming up big in Game 2 of the World Series with a complete-game two-hitter in a 7-1 victory over the New York Mets. Cueto is 9-8 with a 3.24 ERA in 24 career starts against the Cubs and is 5-5 with a 3.07 ERA in 15 outings at Wrigley Field.
San Francisco won three World Series crowns this decade and earned the trip to Chicago by blanking the Mets 3-0 in Wednesday’s NL wild-card game. Third baseman Eduardo Nunez (hamstring) isn’t ready to return, so wild-card game hero Conor Gillaspie (decisive three-run homer) is expected to start.
Monday’s Late Night Games
Giants (79-70) vs Dodgers (84-65)
Los Angeles are sending ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound on Monday night. They open a three-game series against the visiting San Francisco Giants (Enter Contests), who are fighting for a spot in the postseason with 13 games to play. The Dodgers are leading their division rival Giants by five games in the National League West, while the Giants pursue the Mets in the National League wild card race. They are one game back of New York and just a game ahead of St. Louis.
Diamondbacks (63-86) vs Padres (62-87)
The Arizona Diamondbacks are visiting the San Diego Padres. This will be the first of six games between the last two teams in the National League West. They are both looking to avoid a last-place finish before the regular-season comes to an end. The Diamondbacks have won five of their previous seven contests. Thanks in part of their surging offense. They have a one-game lead for fourth place over the Padres, who were swept in three games by the Colorado Rockies.
Blue Jays (81-68) vs Mariners (79-70)
The Seattle Mariners are focusing in making up ground in the American League wild-card race when they take on the Toronto Blue Jays at home. They open a three-game series against their northern opponents. The Mariners avoided the series-sweep against Houston thanks to a 7-3 victory on Sunday. They have won nine of 11 to close within two games of the slumping Blue Jays for the second wild-card spot.
Astros (78-71) vs Athletics (66-83)
After coming up short of a three-game sweep in Seattle, the Houston Astros look to recharge and continue their quest toward a wild-card spot in the American League. They start the second half of their six-game road trip Monday with the series-opener against the Oakland Athletics. Houston lost 7-3 to the Mariners on Sunday, but remain three games back of Toronto for the second wild card. A chance for them to close down the gap is a likely scenario, as they play their next seven contests against AL West bottom-feeders Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels before another confrontation with Seattle at home.
August 18 MLB Rundown
Thursday Evening Matchups
FanPicks has your August 18 MLB rundown to get ready for today’s fantasy baseball contests. Get the info you need and play right here!
Astros vs Orioles
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who reached 1,000 hits against the Cardinals on Tuesday, has had a lot of success against Baltimore, just not recently. In Houston’s three-game sweep of the O’s earlier this season, Altuve went 1-for-13.
Dodgers vs Phillies
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager has hit safely in eight straight games, going 15-for-36. Teammate Adrian Gonzalez is 18-for-40 with 11 RBIs and 12 runs scored during a 10-game hitting streak.
White Sox vs Indians
Cleveland’s first baseman Carlos Santana has a career batting average of .364 (4-for-11) off Rodon. Santana is the only Cleveland batter with double-digit career at-bats vs. the southpaw hitting over .200.
Marlins vs Reds
Veteran second baseman Brandon Phillips returned to the Reds lineup on Wednesday after missing the previous two contests due to injury and delivered the key hit with a go-ahead, two-run double in the seventh.
Nationals vs Braves
Nats outfielder Jayson Werth has reached base in 45 consecutive games. He has a chance to tie the franchise record if he reaches base on Thursday.
Twins vs Royals
Twins rookie right-hander Tyler Duffey goes for his second win over the Royals in six days.
Mariners vs Angels
Fourteen game winning pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma has dominated the Angels’ two biggest threats in large sample sizes. Mike Trout is hitting just .214 (9-for-42) and Albert Pujols only .133 (3-for-45) vs. Iwakuma.
Padres vs Diamondbacks
Arizona right fielder Yasmany Tomas isn’t having any issues at the plate as he went 3-for-4 with two homers and a career-best six RBIs in Wednesday’s 13-5 victory over the New York Mets. Tomas has slugged 12 homers in his past 19 games and has seven multi-homer games while belting 25 this season.
Mets vs Giants
Giants ace Madison Bumgarner has been superb against the Mets in his career by going 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in five career outings. Mets counter-attacks with their ace Jacob deGrom, who is 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in three career starts against the Giants. Pitching duel to be expected.
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Padres vs Pirates
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, benched for three games last week, is 3-for-21 over his last six contests. To make matters worse, right fielder Gregory Polanco has not started in each of the past three games due to a sore left shoulder. Padres left fielder Alex Dickerson homered Sunday to extend his hitting streak to five games.
Indians vs Nationals
Max Scherzer will toe the slab for the Nats, and he’s undefeated in his last five appearances. Scherzer (12-6, 2.87 ERA) allowed three runs on four hits, striking out 11 in eight innings in an 8-3 win at Arizona his last time out. He absolutely owns the Indians, with a record of 4-0, 3.46 ERA in his last eight starts against them.
Rays vs Blue Jays
Devon Travis is doing his best to carve out a full-time role as the Toronto Blue Jays’ leadoff hitter. The 25-year-old looks to follow up a career-best four-hit performance in the opener and give manager John Gibbons added incentive to keep him atop the lineup. Travis, who is 12-for-22 with three homers and seven RBIs during his five-game hitting streak, drove in a run in Monday’s 7-5 triumph and has four homers and eight RBIs in his 12 games as the club’s leadoff hitter. Brad Miller, who recorded a two-run double on Monday for the Rays, is 10-for-25 with three homers and nine RBIs during his seven-game hitting streak.
Yankees vs Red Sox
The modern chapter of the rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees kicked into high gear in the offseason between 2003 and 2004, when Alex Rodriguez was at the center of the controversy. Rodriguez, who ended up with New York that winter, will begin his final series in Boston Tuesday. Rodriguez has 696 career home runs but is suffering through the worst season of his career at age 41 and has no place in the Yankees future after the team elected to go younger at the trade deadline and start inserting the youth into the major league roster.
Giants vs Marlins
Brandon Crawford did his best to give ailing manager Bruce Bochy quite the get-well gift by recording Major League Baseball’s first seven-hit performance in 41 years in the series opener. With Bochy expected to exit the hospital and return to his post in the dugout, Crawford will look to continue the hit parade on Tuesday. He collected a triple, a double and five singles, with his last base hit plating Brandon Belt in the 14th inning for an 8-7 victory. The 29-year-old recorded only six hits in his previous 11 games for the Giants. Miami’s Christian Yelich fell a triple shy of the cycle on Monday but improved to 17-for-40 with 12 RBIs and eight runs scored in his last nine games.
Diamondbacks vs Mets
Zack Greinke’s return from an oblique injury that forced him to miss more than a month should help Arizona’s struggling staff, and the former Cy Young Award winner declared himself ready to go after a rehab start at Triple-A Reno last Wednesday. Greinke surrendered three or fewer runs in six straight starts, including an abbreviated two-inning stint on June 28 before being placed on the disabled list. He is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six career starts against the Mets.
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Rays vs Blue Jays
Scheduled Monday Rays starter Jake Odorizzi has not allowed a run in three straight games spanning 20 2/3 innings. Tampa Bay shortstop Brad Miller is 8-for-21 with three homers and seven RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.
Giants vs Marlins
National League Cy Young Award candidates Johnny Cueto of the Giants and Jose Fernandez of the Marlins are scheduled to square off. They have combined to hold the opposition to two or fewer runs in 28 of their 43 starts this season, although neither managed to win his last time out. Miami saw an high-profile chase come to an end in Sunday’s victory over the Rockies, as Ichiro Suzuki became the fourth player born outside the United States and 30th in major-league history to reach 3,000 hits.
Braves vs Brewers
Brewers rookie center fielder Keon Broxton reached base nine times in the series and is hitting .387 with seven walks, three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in his past 12 games. Milwaukee leads the majors in stolen bases (116). They are led by Jonathan Villar, who stole two bases Sunday and opens the week tied with Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton for the major-league lead (43).
Astros vs Twins
Former top prospect and Twins third baseman Miguel Sano has endured an up-and-down campaign in his first full season in the majors but led the offense with a pair of home runs in Sunday’s 6-3 victory in Tampa Bay.
Reds vs Cardinals
The Reds are highlighting individual successes in an otherwise disappointing campaign and got three hits and four stolen bases from center fielder Billy Hamilton on Sunday. Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips is also red hot going 12-for-19 with eight RBIs in the last five games.
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Indians vs Yankees
The Cleveland Indians used the long ball to avoid a sweep. They are swinging the power bats at the perfect time as they begin a three-game series against the host New York Yankees. Yankee Stadium possess the highest home run rate of any American League park. It will be hard-pressed to contain the Indians, who have hit 15 shots over their previous seven games.
Giants vs Nationals
Riding some momentum after wrapping up a road trip with a dominating sweep at Arizona, the Washington Nationals will receive the San Francisco Giants in the opener of an eight-game homestand. Washington gathered 32 runs in a three-game set against the Diamondbacks to finish 6-3 on the nine-game trek.
Reds vs Pirates
Struggling Andrew McCutchen is expected to return to the lineup when the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates open a three-game stand against Cincinnati Reds. McCutchen was benched for the whole three-game series versus the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates lost two of three and have fallen back to .500 on the season.
Mets vs Tigers
The red hot Detroit Tigers continue their pursuit of the top spot in the American League Central when they host the New York Mets. Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, who was unbeaten in six starts last month, will takes on Mets fireballer Noah Syndergaard.
Twins vs Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins have been competing much better than their current lot in the standings would indicate. The cellar dwellers in the American League East and Central divisions, respectively, look to continue their rock solid play of late at the other’s expense.
Orioles vs White Sox
Chicago White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez likely won’t need extra motivation heading into the opener of a three-game series versus the Baltimore Orioles. After spending his first four seasons with the Orioles, the 32-year-old Gonzalez was let go by the club in late March. He posted a 1-4 mark with a bloated 9.78 ERA back in spring training with Baltimore.
Rangers vs Astros
The Texas Rangers will try to extend their dominance of in-state rival Houston. Texas is 9-1 versus Houston this season. They have won seven of the eight match-ups decided by fewer than three runs.