The NFL Report + New Coaches and MLB Trade Deadline

THE NFL REPORT:

HEY, THE NFC WEST IS THE BEST, BUT WHAT’S THE NEXT-BEST DIVISION IN FOOTBALL?
WE CHECK OUT A PAIR OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEAD COACHES IN NEW PLACES—

NOW WILL THEY SUCCEED HERE IN YEAR ONE?
THE BASEBALL UPDATE: THE TRADE DEADLINE’S REAL MOVERS-AND-SHAKERS

By Jim Hurley

Shhh, don’t tell anybody but there’s a Football Game this Sunday night!

The NFL’s Annual Hall of Fame Game—always a sure sign that Football is back—comes at y’all this Sunday from Canton when the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills lock horns and then go ahead and swing the gates wide open for a whole month worth of NFL Preseason action that sure as heck will whet everyone’s appetite for what figures to be another great season.

Yes, we’ll take some time later this week to analyze what’s ahead in this Hall of Fame Game—right now we see it’s a pick ‘em affair with the over/under totals price at 32 ½ points—but we wanted to start off our Jim Sez Football Week with a look at the second-best division in all of pro football.

C’mon, the absolutely loaded NFC West is—by far—the best single division out there thanks to the two-best teams in the league in the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the NFC runner-up San Francisco 49ers.

In fact, if you did the math last year and included all post-season games than you know that the NFC West starring Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona and St. Louis finished a combined 47-23-0 SU (straight-up) for a rollicking .671 winning percentage while also compiling a splendid 41-26-3 ATS (against the spread) mark that was good for a very spiffy .612 winning rate.

The question we pose here is what division is next-best in the mighty NFL … and here’s our vote for the AFC West.

Last year there were three playoff teams from this division—Denver’s 13-3 SU mark in regular-season play got ‘em a numero uno seed in the AFC Playoffs en route to that harrowing 43-8 loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, but how about Kansas City (11-5) and San Diego (9-7) as both of these teams made it into the playoffs with the Chargers copping a road playoff win in Cincinnati.

Add up all of their numbers from a year ago—including rotten 4-12 SU Oakland—and you come up with the following:

The AFC West registered a 40-30 SU overall mark (that’s a more-than-respectable .571 winning rate) and now compile the won/loss marks versus the vig and last year’s AFC West finished 39-30-1 for a similar .565 winning rate.

Now go ahead and look at this year’s AFC West and you can clearly make the case that everyone in the division has gotten better—even the Raiders who haven’t had a winning year since the franchise’s last Super Bowl showing way back in the 2002 season.

There’s a very good chance that three-of-four AFC West teams again will qualify for the post-season in 2014—the order may change but the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers are all among the AFC’s top six teams, if you ask us today, and we truthfully don’t see any other division in the NFL that could have as many as three playoff teams save for the NFC and/or the AFC West.

Stay tuned.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS & NOTES

The head count on new head coaches in college football-land reached 20 this past off-season—and here today we’ll check in on two gentlemen who look to make a seamless transition after their rather high-profile exits/entrances:

STEVE SARKISIAN, USC—The former Southern Cal assistant is back in LA-LA land after a successful five-year stint in Washington where the Huskies bagged a 34-39 record with a pair of road wins against Nebraska (see the 2010 Holiday Bowl) and BYU (see last year’s Fight Hunger Bowl).

Sarkisian brings some sense of stability back to this Los Angeles campus after three different men served as USC head coaches a year ago (that’s Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and Clay Helton) plus “Sark” has a brilliant offensive mind and will mold the next great quarterback here after some lean years for Trojan passers.

Success from Year One?

We say a definite thumbs up for Sarkisian and don’t be surprised if the Troy Boys are playing in a January bowl game for the first time in six years.

CHARLIE STRONG, TEXAS—Simply put, there’s nothing not to like about this former Louisville head coach who posted a sparkling 37-15 SU record in four years at that always-underrated football school.

The Cardinals tacked together back-to-back 11- and 12-win seasons the past two years and slugged Florida and Miami all over the joint in Sugar Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl triumphs by a combined 37 points.

Still, Strong really has his work cut out for ‘em here in Austin where the Longhorns’ defense comes off a really bad year—Texas surrendered 30-or-more points in seven games last year in the final chapter of the Mack Brown Era and it’s questionable whether or not this stop unit will be any better in Year One for Strong plus it generally takes the head coach and his staff some time to shape the team’s quarterback (see Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater) and so better give Strong and Company a little “honeymoon time” here with expected signal-caller David Ash.

Success from Year One?

We gotta call for only a so-called “minor bowl” for Strong’s first squad in the state’s capital with an 9-4 or 8-5 SU type season on the horizon and some kind of Pinstripe Bowl tilt against Boston College.

Extra, extra …

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners.

Plus, the Football Season begins Sunday night with the aforementioned NFL Hall of Fame Game at 8 p.m. ET as the New York Giants battle the Buffalo Bills.
It’s all part of the summertime action—can’t wait to get Football started!

Make sure you sign up today for the whole NFL Preseason … it’s always a major money-making time of the year for the Jim Hurley Network!

THE BASEBALL REPORT
The Major-League Baseball Trade Deadline clock is tick, tick, ticking its way down to Thursday afternoon and we have a little different take on things than the national media folks do—it surely appears most “in-the-know” writers/reporters believe there won’t be a whole lot of action because there are so many teams that believe they’ll have to overpay for the two most sought-after positions out there … that’s power-hitting outfielders and starting pitching but we think it’s finally time that a couple of pitching-rich organizations cut ties with heralded prospects plus we think some organizations will—if you would—“overpay” to snag an extra power bat.

Here’s some of what we see happening in the next couple of days …

Look for the National League East to be a breeding ground for big trades this week as the Philadelphia Phillies (46-59) unload both RF Marlon Byrd and 1B Ryan Howard.

Expect Byrd to get flipped for prospects with both the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners said to be in the mix while Howard—whose gazillion contract is expected to stall any deals—could well wind up North of the Border as a DH in Toronto.

No playing every day on that hard turf for the immense , just four or five at-bats a night and maybe he’ll be the puzzle piece to push the Blue Jays over the top in the American League East.

Then there’s the pitching-rich New York Mets who come off a 5-5 road trip with stops in San Diego, Seattle and Milwaukee.

The problem is the Mets scored a grand total of 22 runs in these 10 games following the recent All-Star Game break and—even if the unpopular Wilpon Family that owns the Mets isn’t convinced this team can make a run at one of the National League wild cards, the fact is this lineup needs help now and into next year when RHP Matt Harvey will make his return from Tommy John surgery.

The gut feel here is the Mets will hold onto 40-plus year-old RHP Bartolo Colon and kid phenom Jacob deGrom, a 2-0 winner in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, and you’ll see Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson deal away RHP Dillon Gee and maybe even Triple A stud Noah Syndergaard plus maybe righty Rafael Montero, too in a blockbuster deal with Colorado with SS Troy Tulowitzki and OF Carlos Gonzalez. The Mets might have to toss in SS Reuben Tejada, too but no biggie there … the rumors have been surfacing of both “Tulo” and “Cargo” coming to the Mets.

We say it’s about to happen.

Go outside the NL East and we’ll look for this scenario to happen should all the contracts be okayed:

  • The Texas Rangers will deal OF Alex Rios to the Cincinnati Reds
  • The Chicago White Sox will send LHP John Danks to the Pittsburgh Pirates
  • The Atlanta Braves will deal outfielder B.J. Upton back to the Tampa Bay Rays
  • And, last but certainly not least, the Los Angeles Dodgers will trade OF Andre Ethier and —somewhere along the way—pick up a third baseman with some pop (maybe Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe who right now has just seven home runs but could thrive in a better lineup).

NOTE: More NFL, NCAA Football and MLB Nes & Notes coming this week right here at Jim Sez … don’t miss out!

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