Preseason Week 2 Rolls On
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THE NFL PRESEASON WEEK #2 CARD ROLLS ON --
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OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND REPORT
LOOKS AT THE POTENTIAL PITFALL GAMES ON OPENING WEEK
Here's the $64,000 question that must be asked when it comes to the NFL Preseason:
Can anything really be gleaned from these summertime results?
Well, that might actually depend on what you're looking at but here's a few quick-hitter items that stand out for us less than two full two weeks into NFL Preseason play --
#1 -- The New England Patriots appear to be taking this 2010 Preseason pretty seriously all things considered.
The AFC East team already has banged out a pair of wins (both against NFC South competition) and anyone who's been watching can see that the Pats are doing their best to send out messages to both their own offensive linemen who are holding out in contract disputes and to enemy defenses who might just believe all they have to do is defend against QB Tom Brady's downfield chucks.
The Patriots' ground game churned out 120 yards in Thursday's 281-0 win at the 3-point favored Atlanta Falcons and that included a third-down, 20-yard touchdown run off a draw play by RB Sammy Morris (6 carries for 52 yards in all). Plus, hope you caught the highlight of that powerful 28-yard scoring run by born-again RB Fred Taylor (11 carries for 54 yards against the Falcs) -- and so the Patriots are letting everyone know the ground game is back and head coach Bill Belichick also is letting everyone be well aware that he's taking the Preseason seriously, veteran team or not.
#2 -- There are a slew of veteran players 'round the league anxious to show that they still have what it takes to shine in this league where they play for pay.
Right off the bat we think of the early Preseason results of New York Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson and Washington Redskins' backup QB Rex Grossman -- both of whom have been pretty much left for dead when it comes to their NFL futures. Yet there was 'LT' looking cat-quick in last Monday's 31-16 loss to the New York Giants with the ex-San Diego Chargers superstar having his shifty 14-yard touchdown run nullified by a rather questionable holding call on the J-E-T-S. Maybe the Tomlinson stats didn't exactly jump out at you after this prime-time game -- he finished this night with 8 rushes for only 17 yards and added a 14-yard reception -- but he sure appeared quicker than he did last year when the Chargers slowly but surely lost confidence in this future Hall of Famer.
Grossman, meanwhile, has not experienced a Hall of Fame career by any means but he has been put on the NFL scrap heap plenty in his seven years in the league despite the fact he did make a Super Bowl appearance with the Chicago Bears back in the 2006 season. In last week's Preseason opener for the 'Skins, there was Grossman completing 11-of-18 aerials for 140 yards and two touchdowns -- a nine-yard strike to TE Fred Davis and a 44-yard scoring toss to wide-out Jeremy Jarmon -- and it'll be interesting to see now if Grossman's able to play well against the rock-solid Baltimore Ravens defense this weekend.
#3 -- Finally, offensive/defensive coordinators who are looking to 'prove something' are quite capable of imposing their own personal wills on these exhibition games.
Consider that new Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen -- who's taken over the reigns for the well-respected Tom Moore -- has wanted badly to show that the defending AFC champions won't miss a beat in 2010 and thus two strong showings by the Indy first-team offense in early Preseason games against San Francisco and Buffalo (heck, QB Peyton Manning already would be the frontrunner for a fifth league MVP if you included his performances this summer!).
On the other side of the ball, there is incumbent defensive coordinator Casey Bradley of the Seattle Seahawks. True, Bradley was part of last year's regime that wound up winning just five games but new head coach Pete Carroll -- a defensive specialist, as you know -- decided to retain Bradley who now wants to show his new boss that the 'Hawks can get back to their glory days on 'D' despite the fact last year's club finished tied for 25th in the NFL in points allowed (390) and a lowly 24th in total defense (356 yards a game). Last week there was Bradley's unit flying all over the place in the 20-18 non-cover win against Tennessee and his first- and second-stringers should be playing with a real physical style in the Saturday night game against the Green Bay Packers.
And now hear this:
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Now, here are some Saturday/Sunday NFL Preseason Week #2 Preseason matchups:
On Saturday, it's ...
HOUSTON (0-1) at NEW ORLEANS (0-1) -- 8 p.m. ET
It still may take some time for the Super Bowl champion Saints to come down from last year's super-high but expect head coach Sean Payton's crew here to just keep QB Drew Brees (9-of-13 passes for 55 yards in last week's 27-24 loss at New England) just sharp enough here while the emphasis for this club continues to be on its run defense -- yes, the Pats rushed for 112 yards on 'em in that Preseason opener and there still were too many big holes up the middle.
Meanwhile, the Texans know that their first-string offense was in fine form in last Saturday's 19-16 loss in Arizona as QB Matt Schaub completed 5-of-6 passes for 78 yards including a spiffy 44-yard scoring strike to All-Pro WR Andre Johnson but yet another lost fumble (a real bugaboo for the '09 Texans team) -- this on the goal line while going in for a score by Houston RB Steve Slaton -- wound up costing the AFC South club a win last week and it's worth watching the Texans' ball security here.
DALLAS (1-1) at SAN DIEGO (1-0) -- 9 p.m. ET
The Cowboys come into this tilt having scored zero offensive touchdowns so far in two Preseason games and the depth chart is taking a beating with rookie WR Dez Bryant (sprained ankle), backup TE John Phillips (torn ACL) and backup OT Alex Barron (ankle) all having been summertime casualties plus TE Martellus Bennett (sprained ankle) is hurting too.
Naturally, there is no sense of urgency for the 'Boys here in this tilt in terms of scoring and/or winning but head coach Wade Phillips -- a one-time defensive coordinator for the SD Chargers -- would like to see QB Tony Romo and Company be more effective inside the enemy red zone. Dallas PK David Buehler -- who has shined so far this summer in the role of field-goal kicker -- has connected on 6-of-7 attempts but don't be surprised here if the Cowboys go for it in fourth-down situations deep in San Diego's end.
One note regarding the Lightin' Bolts: They won't be running rookie RB Ryan Mathews into the ground. Last week the Fresno State alum rushed the ball nine times for 50 yards in the arm-chair easy 25-10 triumph over Chicago and no way will head coach Norv Turner 'burn him out' before we get to the regular season.
On Sunday, it's ...
MINNESOTA (1-0) at SAN FRANCISCO (1-0) -- 8 p.m. ET, NBC
It's lights, cameras, action for this battle in the Bay Area and no doubt broadcasters Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth will have plenty to talk about regarding -- who else -- but Brett Favre plus there's the not-so-little matter of the on-going medical woes of Vikings star WR Percy Harvin (see recent episode in Mankato) and so the drama surrounding both of these players will get center stage. Favre will play a series or two here but he won't have all his complementary players as wide out Sidney Rice (hip) is a no-go for this nationally televised tilt and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (shoulder) also could either miss this tilt or see very limited action.
Okay, so how about some attention here for the 49ers who come off last Sunday's 37-17 win at Indianapolis? San Francisco QB Alex Smith (just 3-of-9 passing for 37 yards with one INT against Indianapolis starters last weekend) is facing some real heat to step up his game this year and he may not get any help here from second-year WR Michael Crabtree who suffered a neck injury in practice this week.
The one thing we're wondering is how many folks change the channel once Favre's night on the field is over ... hmmm.
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COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S WEEKEND REPORT
Believe it or not, we're now less than two weeks away from the start of the 2010 College Football Season and -- just so you know -- we'll have plenty of Opening-Week Previews leading up these games in the days ahead but right now let's take a few moments to sort through potential pitfall games for the tilts of September 2-through-September 6:
COLORADO vs. COLORADO STATE (at Denver): This Mile High rivalry surely has seen its fair share of upsets over the years and this could be a major trouble spot right out of the starting gate for the heavy-duty favorite CU Buffaloes (a 12 1/2-point fav at press time).
The Big 12 team fell 23-17 as 12-point favorites last year and -- even though revenge is being talked up big-time 'round the Boulder campus -- the underdog C-State Rams do come into this clash with 10 defensive starters back and something to prove after suffering through a 3-9 SU (straightup) season a year ago.
Hey, if coach's son QB Cody Hawkins or QB Tyler Hansen can't generate much offense for a team that last year finished a lowly 92nd nationally in scoring (22.3 ppg) than this could be major trouble for the Buffs.
PURDUE at NOTRE DAME -- No doubt that the ND Fighting Irish have been getting plenty of 'pub' ever since highly-respected and highly-successful head coach Brian Kelly rolled into town but might this season-opener be pothole special for the South Bend guys?
After all, this is a Notre Dame that's just 16-21 SU the past three seasons and one that finished a dismal 86th nationally in total defense (allowing nearly 400 yards a game) and now the good folks in Las Vegas are asking the Irish to lay 11 points to a Big 10 team that last year almost beat Oregon and did beat Ohio State. The Boilermakers figure to be sick-and-tired of hearing all this Notre Dame/Kelly talk in the days leading up to this Labor Day weekend affair and could be extra spicy for this clash in the shadow of 'Touchdown Jesus'.
Don't know what the Irish mindset will be on game day -- but should anyone be surprised when/if this game goes right down to the wire?
SMU at TEXAS TECH -- Here's a Labor Day Sunday clash from the Lone Star State and note the T-Tech Red Raiders are a 13-point betting favorite at press time and yet we say the Lubbock gang better watch out.
Consider all the variables working against Tech here including the fact that new head coach Tommy Tuberville has been a tad boastful even before his Big 12 guys have played a single down plus it's gonna be awfully tempting for the coaching staff to play musical quarterbacks with the likes of seniors Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts. Then, toss into the equation that the Red Raiders lost their top six defensive linemen from a year ago and it could be a rough-and-tumble start here against an in-state foe with a nothing-to-lose and everything-to-gain attitude.
The SMU Mustangs are a real-live legit contender to the Conference USA crown this season and star-in-the-making soph QB Kyle Padron -- who went 5-1 as a starter last year after taking over the role at midseason -- is more than capable of stealing the show here.
No question that Colorado, Notre Dame and Texas Tech better have their helmets strapped on good -- it could be upset alert in any/all of these games in a couple of weeks from now.
NOTE: Get all of our NFL Preseason re-caps plus the Monday Night Football Preview -- that's the Arizona Cardinals at the Tennessee Titans -- in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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