Handicapping The NFL Preseason



When it comes to handicapping the NFL Preseason games this summer, might a 'back-to-basics' approach work best?

No doubt the on-going free-for-all when it comes to NFL free agents – hey, there's still a long way to go this weekend before everyone officially signs on the dotted lines – means every one of the league's 32 teams must allow some time for acclimation to one another on and off the playing fields but it says here that the way to win (and cover) in this 2011 Preseason is by sticking to meat-and-potatoes or nuts-and-bolts type football, if you will.

Go ahead and follow our Jim Sez logic: It's estimated that NFL teams will turn over approximately 25-to-30 percent of their rosters from 2010 to now thanks to free agency, rookies, etc. and so complicating matters with thick playbooks figures to serve to confuse rather than enhance a team's offense ad conventional wisdom says that what will work this Preseason will be familiarity: Find us the teams that have good, stable offensive lines and than chuck in a quarterback who knows his pass-catchers and at least oneveteran running back who wants to 'get his work in' during these Preseason games and add a defense that didn't suffer great off-season turnover and you have the recipe for an NFL team that likely will thrive in these four Preseason weeks.

One such team that comes to mind is the New Orleans Saints:

The 2009 Super Bowl champions just jettisoned unhappy RB Reggie Bush to Miami but there's some RBs that really have something to play for these days with rookie Mark Ingram (Alabama) pushing everyone here for playing time. Toss into the mix the fact that QB Drew Brees was ultra-successful in bringing the Saints as a team together for those off-season workouts and this O-line has something to prove while underachieving as a unit in 2010 and the Saints figure to take this Preseason quite seriously – and we'll soon discover if that's indeed fact or fiction come the Preseason opener against the visiting San Francisco 49ers. Note that the Saints' other Preseason games this summer will be at Houston, at Oakland and home to new-look Tennessee.

Okay, so what's the worst possible combo while heading into these upcoming NFL Preseason games? That's easy:
New head coach (and new coaching staff, of course), plus an offense that needs major fine-tuning and a defense that lacks for depth and can't really afford any summertime injuries.

One team that quickly comes to mind here is the Cleveland Browns. New head coach Pat Shurmur is a novice at the job even though he did spend eight years on the coaching staff of the Philadelphia Eagles and even though Shurmur declared himself recently to be a 'Colt McCoy fan' the fact of the matter is the second-year Browns quarterback still is very much wet behind the ears on this level and prone to making bad reads.

An additional negative is that the Browns – according to several sources – have moved 'slowly' this week in the world of free agency and thus have allowed some key players such as safeties Eric Weddle (San Diego Chargers) and Quintin Mikell (St. Louis Rams) to sign free-agent deals while the Browns' management folks – and that means team president Mike Holmgren -- sat on their hands.
Last year's defense 27th against the rush and 18th against the best – not good – and so Cleveland needed to bolster the talent level on both sides of the ball and apparently have failed to do so at this point in time and note no wide receiver had more than 40 catches for last year's team (see WR Chansi Stuckey's 40 receptions).

The Browns remain in a walk-before-they-crawl mode and so anyone backing 'em this summer – beginning with the Preseason Week #1 home game against Green Bay next weekend – could be getting the real short end of the straw when it comes to the Las Vegas betting line.

P.S., in case you were wondering the Browns will play their other NFL Preseason games at home against Detroit, at Philadelphia and at Chicago.

And now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers always have thrived with Sides & Totals Winners in NFL Preseason action but now we're really ready to rock Las Vegas big-time in this 'Summer of 2011'. Jim and Company have been monitoring all 32 NFL teams/coaches and we'll have the head start on everyone else out there and we'll know what NFL Preseason lines are 'real' and which ones are 'bogus'. Plus, make sure to get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too each/every day -- just remember to call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and make sure you're all aboard for a summer filled with all our NFL Preseason and MLB winners! The calling/check-in times are after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays; anytime after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball action; and than anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the weeknight action in Football and Baseball.


The final weekend in July goes out with a blast – it's the Major-League Baseball Trade Deadline come Sunday (of course!) -- and there's a couple of truly hot sides that look to bang out more wins before we officially get into the so-called dog days of August.
So here's what to watch this weekend in the 'bigs':

In the National League, it's …

ARIZONA (57-48) at LOS ANGELES DODGERS (47-57) – Fri, Sat & Sun
Go ahead and tell us you knew the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks would be 'relevant' come the final few days of July!
Still, the D-Backs enter this series having won four of their last five games and they sit a mere 4 games back of the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants and so who's to say that Arizona won't be making a big splash prior to the deadline just as the Jints did while picking up New York Mets OF Carlos Beltran (see 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Thursday night's 4-1 win in Philadelphia).
The fact of the matter is the Diamondbacks have been one of baseball's best buys this year – consider Kirk Gibson's gang is 43-31 in night games and a rock-solid 20-13 in one-run games this season – and did you realize since the All-Star Game break that Arizona is 8-5 overall while beating the likes of Milwaukee's Zack Greinke and Colorado RHP Ubaldo Jimenez?

The Diamondbacks are 41-33 against righthanded pitchers this year and this weekend are scheduled to match up against Dodgers' righties Chad Billingsley (9-8, 3.92 ERA) and Rubby De La Rosa (4-4, 3.49 ERA) … might 'Zona be scratching out more big-time 'moolah' profits on this final weekend in July? The Diamondbacks have been one of the sport's best investments this year – as if you didn't know!

In the American League, it's …

LOS ANGELES ANGELS (58-48) at DETROIT (55-50) – Fri, Sat & Sun
Note that the red-hot Angels – winners of three in a row and seven of their last 10 games – already copped the first game of this four-game set with Thursday's 12-7 matinee triumph at Comerica Park and that pushed the Halos to a 22-15 mark in day-time affairs and there will be Saturday and Sunday afternoon action (at 4:10 p.m. and 1:05 p.m. ET, respectively) in this series and so don't say you have not been warned.

In fact, let's check out the Angels' day-time games since the All-Star break (note home teams are in CAPS):

7-16 Angels (-130) OAKLAND 4-2
7-17 OAKLAND (-140) Angels 9-1
7-21 ANGELS (-120) Texas 1-0
7-24 Angels (+110) BALTIMORE 9-3
7-27 Angels (-118) CLEVELAND 3-1*
7-27 Angels (+120) DETROIT 12-7

*No-Hitter thrown by RHP Ervin Santana

As you can plainly see, Mike Scioscia's Angels have been blistering hot in day games lately with a 5-1 mark since the All-Star break and then go ahead and break down the dollars and cents and you see pro-LA Angels day-time plays the past couple of weeks (based on $100 per play) would have netted you a grand total of $430. Not bad pocket money, right? Okay, so no-hit author Santana won't be getting a start in this weekend series in Motown but the likes of RHPs Dan Haren and All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver will get turns and both will be pitching in the daylight. Hmmm

NOTE: More NFL News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.



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