NFL Week #1 Key Previews
Hurley's All-Day Winning Football Ticket Goes 4-1!
Cowboys (+6) Jets 24-27 WON
Texans (-9) Colts 34-7 WON
Bills (+5.5) Chiefs 41-7 WON
Redskins (+3) Giants 28-14 WON
Rams (+4) Eagles 13-31 lost
THE NFL WEEK #1 KEY PREVIEWS:
STEELERS-RAVENS & COWBOYS-JETS HEADLINE THIS SEPTEMBER 11 GRIDIRON CARD
By Jim Hurley:
Maybe it's appropriate that America has its favorite sport front-and-center on this 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Sure, it's only a sport but you better believe there will be many indelible images that will come forth on this NFL Week 1 when some 13 stadia throughout the NFL remember the horrors of 9-11-01.
Maybe the games of this NFL Sunday will, indeed, provide many feel-good moments. Let's hope so.
Meanwhile, the NFL Week 1 card swung into action with Green Bay's wild 42-34 win/cover against New Orleans this past Thursday Night and a quick check on this menu shows us the following:
Right now there are five games that sport Las Vegas pointspreads of 3 points-or-less and there are three home underdogs on the docket (that's Chicago, St. Louis and Washington) but what catches our attention is that teams such as Cleveland, Jacksonville and San Francisco all are listed as betting favorites - and that may not happen for any/all of the above too often this 2011 NFL season. Now, let's take a look at some of the NFL Week 1 Key Sunday Matchups ...
PITTSBURGH at BALTIMORE - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
One thing on the side of the Baltimore Ravens here: At least a loss won't end their season! In two of the last three years a playoff loss to the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers shoved the Ravens out of the playoff picture and now here John Harbaugh's guys must show they can beat the Steelers with Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup - the Steelers have won the last seven in a row SU (straight-up) versus Baltimore with "Big Ben" in the lineup and here Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs (11 sacks in 2010) must lead the defensive assault and Baltimore's at-times overrated secondary can't allow the "home run" ball (see long-ball chuck to WR Orlando Brown that set up the game-winning score in last year's AFC Divisional Playoff Game).
Spread Notes - Baltimore has covered its season-opening game in each of the past three years but the Ravens are a shabby 4-8-1 ATS (against the spread) in AFC North games since the start of the 2009 season. On the flip side, Pittsburgh has covered its season-opening game three times in four years under now fifth-year head coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers are just 4-8-1 ATS against Baltimore in the teams' last 13 regular-season but Pittsburgh's won/covered both playoff matchups in recent years (a 23-14 victory as 6-point home favorites back in the Super Bowl-winning 2008 season and a 31-24 triumph as 3 ½-point home favorites in last year's Super Bowl-losing season).
ATLANTA at CHICAGO - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Maybe it's time the Chicago Bears - and their often unyielding fans - finally sacked talk of QB Jay Cutler's toughness. True, the flame-thrower did famously remove himself from last year's NFC Championship Game home loss to Green Bay but remember he was sacked an NFL-high 52 times last season.
The real irony of this high-profile game from Soldier Field is that the result here likely hinges on whether or not the Bears defense - which registered an NFL middle-of-the-pack 34 quarterback sacks last year - can get in the grill of Falcons QB Matt Ryan who threw for 3,705 yards and 28 TDs last year and now has added rookie WR Julio Jones to the mix.
P.S., if the Bears' speedballs Devin Hester and/or Johnny Knox are allowed to return any kickoffs or punts here, than Atlanta head coach Mike Smith should get his noggin checked!
Spread Notes - Atlanta is 22-11 ATS the past two years and note that includes a tasty 11-5 vig mark away. The Falcons have covered both of their recent head-to-head matchups with Chicago (see 2008 and '09) as Atlanta (- 4) downed the visiting Bears 21-14 in '09 and grabbed a 22-20 triumph as 3-point home dogs back in 2008. Note that Chicago covered 7-of-10 games while placed in the underdog role last season ... and when is the last time a team that hosted that year's NFC Championship Game been a wagering pup 10 times, we ask!
PHILADELPHIA at ST. LOUIS - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
As long as the "Dream Team" label is gonna be planted on the scalps of the 2011 Philly Eagles, than know this: The Birds need to improve their red-zone offense (they ranked just 14th in the NFL in that key category a year ago) and QB Michael Vick must show he won't get rattled by a Rams pass rush that could be sending the proverbial "kitchen sink" at times. Vick showed some chinks in the armor this Preseason - no doubt that Pittsburgh rushed his reads and caused him to be confused - and so St. Loo head coach Steve Spagnuolo (a true defensive whiz) must make shadowing Vick his top priority here even if that means allowing RBs "Shady" McCoy and Ronnie Brown some rushing room.
Remember that St. Louis hired former (and failed) Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as the team's offensive coordinator this past off-season and even with star-in-the-making QB Sam Bradford (3,512 yards passing last year) there better be plenty of handoffs for RB Stephen Jackson who's coming off a sixth straight 1,000-yard rushing season and that's the NFL's longest active such streak.
Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a rock-solid 27-18 ATS away the past five years and that includes eight covers in its last dozen road games against NFC competition. Meanwhile, St. Louis comes off a 10-6 ATS season - their best spread log in more than a decade! - and the Rams covered 7-of-11 dog appearances last year including outright winners against 5-point favorite Washington, 2 ½-point fav Seattle, 8 ½-point fav San Diego and 3-point favorite Denver.
MINNESOTA at SAN DIEGO - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
No excuses, Chargers. If San Diego gets off to its usual slow start this year than heads may roll by early-to-mid-October and so gut feeling here is QB Philip Rivers (4,710 yards passing with 30 TDs and 10 INTs in 2010) will have carte blanche to chuck in around Qualcomm Stadium here and the $64,000 question is will San Diego have an improved special teams - you know, the kicking game and kick coverage units killed the Bolts last year.
Minnesota - coming off a dreary and drama-filled 6-10 SU season - has settled on aging Donovan McNabb at quarterback but whether this game stays tight or not rests on what Minny RB Adrian Peterson does: The perennial Pro Bowler has 52 TDs the past four years and he must get 30-or-so touches here and he must make sure the Vikes win time of possession while keeping Rivers stationed on the sidelines.
Spread Notes - San Diego rolled to a 6-2 ATS home mark a year ago but did you realize that the Chargers are a tidy 6-2-1 spreadwise against NFC teams the past two-plus seasons? Minnesota registered a wobbly 5-10-1 spread mark last year and the now the Vikings are a collective 10-15-1 ATS away since the start of the 2008 campaign.
On Sunday Nite, it's ...
DALLAS at NEW YORK JETS - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Amidst all the activity at MetLife Stadium surrounding 9/11, there's an important Week One football game and you already know the major storylines:
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan - who guarantees a Super Bowl win each and every year - bangs heads with new Cowboys defensive coordinator/twin brother Rob here and so there could be some "macho head games" going on here between these two defensive gurus.
However, when push comes to shove in this prime-time tilt, the Cowboys need to scorch the Jets oft-times overrated secondary by getting off deep balls to WR Dez Bryant and over-the-middle chucks to TE Jason Witten - now can QB Tony Romo just less than a full year removed from a broken collarbone stay in the upright position for a full 60 minutes?
On the flip side, the J-E-T-S welcome WR Plaxico Burress into the fold but keep in mind the once-imprisoned Super Bowl hero of the NY Giants did suffer through ankle and back pains this past summer. Look for Jets' QB Mark Sanchez to try and get Burress involved right from the get-go here. Plus, look for the Jets to really take some chances deep against a Cowboys secondary with injury woes as CBs Terence Newman (groin) and Mike Jenkins (knee) are far from 100 percent.
Spread Notes - Dallas is just 10-15 versus the vig away dating back to the start of the 2008 season and that includes a 5-6 spread log when in the role of road underdog. Meanwhile, the NY Jets are a composite 22-16 ATS in the Ryan Era thus far and that includes a dead-even but vig-losing 8-8 ATS mark at home and a 12-10 ATS log as betting favorites. P.S., the last time these clubs played one another the 14 ½-point favored Cowboys crushed the Jets 34-3 back in 2007.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
MORE NFL WEEK #1 NEWS & NOTES:
QUICK-HITTER COMMENTS ON
THE HIGH-PROFILE OH-AND-TWO GUYS
(THAT’S NOTRE DAME AND GEORGIA, FOLKS) …
KEY POINTSPREAD NOTES
ON THE BROWNS, TITANS, PANTHERS, NINERS,
BRONCOS AND RAIDERS
(THE TEAMS PLAYING SUNDAY/MONDAY
WITH BRAND-NEW HEAD COACHES)
Okay, so neither Notre Dame nor Georgia were expected to cop this year’s BCS Championship Game – but they were the #16 and #19 teams in the land, respectively in this year’s opening Associated Press Top 25 poll.
But go ahead and raise your paw if you though the Fighting Irish and Dawgs were be a combined 0-and-4 SU (straight-up) just two weeks into this here-and-now College Football Season.
Maybe you might want to blame the respective defenses as Michigan’s exhausting/exhilarating 35-31 win against 3 ½-point road favorite Notre Dame last night featured a bevy of big-yardage plays but it was maize-and-blue QB Denard Robinson’s slick 16-yard corner-of-the-end zone scoring strike to WR Ray Roundtree with two seconds left that proved to be the backbreaker and so the Irish not only are 0-2 SU to start a season for the first time since 2007 (paging Charlie Weis!) but ND’s also 0-2 ATS (against the spread) also for the first time since ’07 when that Irish edition failed to cover season-opening tilts against Georgia Tech and Penn State.
Well, you might be prone to believe that except Notre Dame did take that late-game lead on a 29-yard TD strike by QB Tommy Rees as part of that pitch-and-catch bit where three touchdowns in all were scored in the game’s final 72 seconds. If Notre Dame wants to point at something other than its rickety defense for this loss, than pin it on the five turnovers that absolutely bit Brian Kelly’s club right in the butt-zinski.
As far as Georgia goes, the Dawgs were a 2 ½-point home pup for their SEC opener against South Carolina and a few defensive shortcomings here helped to sabotage Mark Richt’s club – hey, we don’t want to speculate about Richt’s future here as Year #11 ain’t off to a great start but let’s just say nobody in/around Athens exactly will be shocked when he starts putting his valuables in boxes any day now!
Georgia – a 45-32 loser to the USC Gamecocks on this second Saturday in September – found a way to lose a game in which stud QB Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes as a fake punt that turned into a 68-yard touchdown play staggered the Bulldogs as did the rushing of soph RB Marcus Lattimore who cranked out 176 yards while getting the better of Georgia prep star RB Isaiah Crowell (see 118 yards rushing and some dazzling moves while averaging 7.4 yards a pop) and so here’s Georgia at 0-2 SU and 0-2 ATS and – in case you were wondering – the Dawgs have not started off a season with three consecutive spread losses since prior to Richt’s arrival way back in 2001.
NFL WEEK #1
POINTSPREAD NEWS & NOTES
Let’s get you some pertinent pointspread info as it relates to the NFL teams that have new head coaches on their sidelines on this first Sunday/Monday in the season:
CAROLINA – The Ron Rivera Era begins today with a road tilt in Arizona and take note that the Panthers went 2-6 ATS away last year while finishing a putrid 4-12 spreadwise overall. Note that Carolina was a 5-point-or-larger underdog on nine different occasions last year and registered a shabby 2-7 ATS mark in these days. Just sayin’!
CLEVELAND – First-time head coach Pat Shurmur has Browns fans in an optimistic state today as the AFC North crew kicks off the 2011 season against in-state rival Cincinnati but did you know that Cleveland is just 2-6 vig-wise as betting favorites the past three years (including an 0-2 ATS mark last season with spread losses as chalk guys versus Kansas City and aforementioned Carolina)?
DENVER – The new sheriff in town here is former Carolina head coach John Fox and maybe his first order of duty is improving the club’s spread stats: The Broncos – who host Oakland in the second leg of the Monday Night Football twin-bill -- are a collective 28-51-1 ATS since the start of the 2006 season and that includes a 12-27-1 ATS mark at home.
OAKLAND – Speaking of the Raiders, they’ve delivered a sparkling 10-2 spread log to their bettors in AFC West games the past two years and that includes a clean 6-and-oh sweep against divisional pals a year ago.
SAN FRANCISCO – The Jim Harbaugh Era comes with great expectations but did you know the 49ers are just 21-30-2 ATS as betting favorites the past nine years? Last year’s Niners scored a season-high 40 points in a win/cover against now-Week 1 foe Seattle.
TENNESSEE – Hard to believe that Jeff Fisher isn’t strolling the Titans sidelines anymore as one-time assistant Mike Munchak takes over the reigns and note this AFC South club has covered six of its last nine head-to-head showdowns against Week 1 foe Jacksonville.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win plenty this NFL and College Football season and so make sure you get it all jump-started with this week’s NFL action right through Monday Night’s twin-bill – that’s the New England Patriots at the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders at the Denver Broncos -- and then, of course, get all the Winning Selections right through the BCS National Championship Game in January and Super Bowl 46 in early February.
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