Saturday Night Giants-Steelers Preview

THERE'S MORE NFL PRESEASON WEEK 1 GOODIES - WE CHECK IN ON THE SATURDAY NITE SHOWDOWN BETWEEN THE GIANTS AT THE STEELERS PLUS IT'S A REVIEW OF KEY THURSDAY NITE NEWS/NOTES

By Jim Hurley:

Let's just say that some NFL teams were being"serious" when it came to their quarterbacks in their preseason openers on Thursday night:

For starters, the St. Louis Rams - a 27-19 loser at 3 ½-point favorite Cleveland - played QB Sam Bradford for three offensive series with the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner completing 5-of-8 passes for 102 yards including a snazzy 59-yard completion to WR Chris Givens that made all the highlight shows.

Okay, so Bradford - who connected with Givens on a three-yard scoring strike - later claimed he was"frustrated" that the Rams fumbled to stall a neat drive that had reached the Browns' 26-yard line early but count us (and Bradford) as a bit surprised that he played in three series in a preseason opener and likely a sign from second-year Rams head coach Jeff Fisher that this whole unit needs some time to jell in the post-RB Stephen Jackson Era.

Meanwhile, in that same game there was Browns' second-year slinger Brandon Weeden completing 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards and that included a two-yard scoring flip to RB Dion Lewis and so the Rob Chudzinski Era in Cleveland began with a major exclamation mark:

Weeden is his starting quarterback under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and everyone else is fighting for second- and third-string QB crumbs.

Note that Weeden - who will turn 30 years old on his next birthday - completed all five passes on his second offensive series and looked real composed while leading the Browns to 10 points in their first two possessions. Note that TE Jordan Cameron nabbed one 30-yard pass from Weeden on a crossing route and keep eyes on this pass-catch combo that could have a big stats year for the AFC North crew that everyone else seemingly forgets about...right?

Finally, there's Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker who played a whopping 25 snaps from scrimmage (that's four offensive series, if you are keeping track!) and wound up 7-of-11 passing for 58 yards but was sacked twice in a 22-21 loss to the 3-point road underdog Washington Redskins.

No doubt that Locker - who will spend a lot of time operating from the now-famed pistol attack this season - faces a real do-or-die year for Tennessee this season and you can tell that it's gonna take some time for everyone to get used to one another on the Titans' offensive line where LG Andy Levitre and rookie RG Chance Warmack (Alabama) are just getting into the swing of things. You might have caught the play where Warmack - the 10th overall draft pick last spring - couldn't block hard-charging Redskins DL Ryan Kerrigan who merely bull-rushed Warmack back, back, back.

In other NFL Preseason Week News & Notes from Thursday's games...

It's hard to imagine that a"real game" between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers won't produce any offensive touchdowns but Denver's 10-6 win at 3-point favorite San Fran"featured" one defensive touchdown and a trio of field goals - but don't blame SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick who completed all four of his passes and showed some real zip on a late-developing crossing route pass that helped to set up a Phil Dawson 32-yard field goal that capped a 13-play, 62-yard drive.

Kaepernick added a six-yard run to boot but something tells us that Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh won't expose his no-doubt-about-it No. 1 signal-caller to too many hits this summer - keep in mind that the San Francisco backup quarterbacks these days - at least for right now - are a couple of chaps named Scott Tolzien (15-of-26 passing for 158 yards and one INT on Thursday night) and former Browns QB Colt McCoy (3-of-7 passing for 41 yards and one pick against the Broncos)...

Finally, let's not get too carried away with the Baltimore Ravens' 44-16 win at 3-point fav Tampa Bay - although we did see Super Bowl-winning head coach John Harbaugh flash a few wide grins during the course of this nutty game - but it is worth noting that Baltimore TE Visanthe Shiancoe was targeted five times and finished with three receptions worth 27 yards while starting in place if an injured Ed Dickson (hamstring).

Plus, the Ravens already lost TE Dennis Pitta (dislocated and fractured hip recently suffered in practice) for the year after he nabbed 61 balls for 669 yards and 7 TDs in 2012 and so the ageless Shiancoe could be more important than you might think for this QB Joe Flacco-led offense. Just sayin'.

Jim Hurley and his veteran Handicappers and Bloggers will bring you a bunch of summertime winners on the gridiron and make sure to cash in with all the NFL Preseason Sides & Totals Winners. Remember there's NFL Preseason Week 1 games right through the weekend-on Saturday it's the New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers in prime time and Sunday afternoon it's the Buffalo Bills at the Indianapolis Colts with both of these tilts to be aired live on the NFL Network. So make sure you hook up with me, Jim Hurley -- America's #1 Handicapper -- plus make sure you cash in with loads of Major-League Baseball Winners, too, as we've been raging hot ever since the All-Star Game. Check with us right here online or call us toll-free at 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight NFL and MLB action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Football/Baseball Winners.

NFL PRESEASON WEEK 1 - HERE'S THE SATURDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

NEW YORK GIANTS at PITTSBURGH - 7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Okay, so there might not be a whole lot on the line for this NFL Preseason Week 1 tilt from the Steel City but can we please take this moment to advise you that the Giants and Steelers have combined for half of the NFL's last eight Super Bowl championships (the Steelers winning it all in 2005 and '08; the Giants copping the Vince Lombardi Trophies in both 2007 and 2011) and so that makes any matchup between these storied franchises pretty special, eh?

No doubt the Giants zoom into the here-and-now preseason with some major question marks such as will WR Hakeem Nicks be fully recovered from all the nagging injuries that have bothered him the past year-and-change. Nicks has been pretty much kept under wraps lately with a sore groin - don't expect him to play here - but Giants QB Eli Manning will be looking to gain some on-field rapport with new TE Brandon Myers who caught a whopping 79 balls for the Oakland Raiders last season.

Among the what-to-watch items here for the host/favored Steelers, a ground game that ranked a rotten 26th in the NFL a year ago (averaged just 96.1 yards per game) must get kick-started right away and so this game will give an inkling as to whether or not rookie Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State) will be the feature back that this AFC North crew seeks or will the likes of Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and/or LaRod Stephens-Howling will gobble up a chunk of the team's rushing attempts.

Las Vegas Line: Pittsburgh - 2 ½; O/U 35 ½ Points

Editor's Note Don't forget we'll preview the Sunday afternoon game that wraps up NFL Preseason Week 1 action - that's the Buffalo Bills at the Indianapolis Colts - in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez and we'll set the table for next week's Preseason Week 2 games in plenty of time for your viewing pleasure.

 

WE WRAP UP THE FIRST FULL WEEK OF SUMMERTIME PLAY WITH SUNDAY'S BILLS-COLTS CLASH IN INDY ...PLUS WE GO AHEAD AND HIT THE REWIND BUTTON ON FRIDAY'S KEY NFL PRESEASON HAPPENINGS ... A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND REFRESHER

By Jim Hurley

Okay, so have you all been taking notice that scoring-so far-in this 2013 NFL Preseason has been going up, up and away?

If you checked out the results following Thursday's six preseason games (and add to them last Sunday's annual NFL Hall of Fame Game) then you noticed that the "over" players started out a sizzling 6-1 ATS (against the spread). Well, chuck in a 5-3 spread night for the "over" players on Friday night (see chart below) and it all adds up to Overs 11, Unders 4 following the first 15 NFL Preseason games ... a dazzling .733 winning rate for the folks who like lots of scoring!
Here's the breakdown in chart form with the Over (O) or Under (U) duly noted:

DATE MATCHUP TOTALS SCORE
8-4 Miami vs. Dallas 33 Dallas 24-20 (O)
8-8 Baltimore at Tampa Bay 35 Baltimore 44-16 (O)
Washington at Tennessee 35 Washington 22-21 (O)
St. Louis at Cleveland 35 Cleveland 27-19 (O)
Cincinnati at Atlanta 36 Cincinnati 34-10 (O)
Denver at San Francisco 34.5 Denver 10-6 (U)
Seattle at San Diego 35.5 Seattle 31-10 (O)

Now, here's a look at Friday night's NFL Preseason Week 1 action:

DATE MATCHUP TOTALS SCORE
8-9 Miami at Jacksonville 36 Miami 27-3 (U)
NY Jets at Detroit 36.5 Detroit 26-17 (O)
New England at Philadelphia 40.5 New England 31-22 (O)
Arizona at Green Bay 35.5 Arizona 17-0 (U)
Chicago at Carolina 34.5 Carolina 24-17 (O)
Kansas City at New Orleans 36.5 New Orleans 17-13 (U)
Houston at Minnesota 35.5 Houston 27-13 (O)
Dallas at Oakland 35.5 Oakland 19-17 (O)

No doubt it's been a combination of factors that have added up to more scoring-the up-tempo offenses (especially in that Patriots 31-22 win at the Eagles) plus more starting quarterbacks going deeper into preseason openers plus there's already been a fair share of special teams and defensive touchdowns has gotten the points totals to be going higher than usual but you can fully expect the Las Vegas folks to make some significant "totals" changes with next week's games ... in fact, you can bank on it!

NFL PRESEASON WEEK 1-THE SUNDAY AFTERNOON PREVIEW

BUFFALO at INDIANAPOLIS-1:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network

Last year's 10-win Indianapolis Colts team finished a rock-solid 10th in the NFL in total offense while averaging 21.5 points per game but note the "Horseshoes" scored 30-or-more points on only two occasions-a 30-27 upset win against 6 ½-point roade fav Green Bay and a 35-33 win in early December at TD-favorite Detroit.

Otherwise, the QB Andrew Luck-led offense didn't really have many explosions despite the highly successful season and so now with offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians gone to Arizona it will be interesting to see if this AFC South crew shows more-or less-pop this summertime.
No doubt new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton-who was Luck's OC and play-caller in his college days at Stanford-won't need much time to get acclimated to his quarterback's game but there could be a shortage of supporting cast members here in this matinee tilt as TE Dwyane Allen (foot) has been forced to miss recent practices and won't play here while new WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee) couldn't finish a team practice session on Thursday plus free-agent signee RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot surgery) is hoping to return next week as he's set to challenge starting RB Vick Ballard for the first-string job.

If the Colts are lacking for some of their playmakers here, then note the visiting Bills-who last year ranked a dismal 25th in the league in passing (204.3 ypg)-are hoping an influx of new blood here will wake up a unit that scored 19 points or less in six of the team's final nine games en route to a somber 6-10 SU (straight-up) season in 2012.

Of course, all eyes will be trained on Buffalo's first-round draftee quarterback E.J. Manuel but don't look for rookie head coach Doug Marrone to let Manuel get beaten up too much here. It will be interesting to see if new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will make RB C.J. Spiller the centerpiece of the offense right from the start after Hackett told media folks last week that Spiller this year would get the ball "until he throws up" ... nice!

Last year Spiller averaged 13 carries per game to go along with 2.7 receptions-per-game but insiders are saying that Buffalo could ask the former Clemson start to get 25-or-more touches per outing this season, so stay tuned.

Las Vegas Line: Indianapolis-3 ½; O/U 36 ½ Points

Jim Hurley and his veteran Handicappers and Bloggers will bring you a bunch of summertime winners on the gridiron and make sure to cash in with all the NFL Preseason Sides & Totals Winners. Remember there's NFL Preseason Week 1 games right through the weekend - on Saturday it's the New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers in prime time and Sunday afternoon it's the Buffalo Bills at the Indianapolis Colts with both of these tilts to be aired live on the NFL Network. So make sure you hook up with me, Jim Hurley -- America's #1 Handicapper -- plus make sure you cash in with loads of Major-League Baseball Winners, too, as we've been raging hot ever since the All-Star Game. Check with us right here online or call us toll-free at 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight NFL and MLB action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Football/Baseball Winners.

FRIDAY'S NFL PRESEASON WEEK 1 NEWS/NOTES

As we pointed out earlier in this Jim Sez column, scoring's been up in the early preseason games and one reason-and one reason you probably would not have guessed-is that there are some placekickers who are really drillin' it so far:

Detroit Lions backup kicker Havard Rugland-who's expected to be beaten out for the No. 1 job by six-time Pro Bowler David Akers-banged home field goals of 49 and 50 yards in Friday's 26-17 win/cover against the 4-point road underdog New York Jets. Rugland is best known for being a YouTube sensation who has among other things kicked a football to a friend who sat on a boat in a nearby lake. If Rugland turns some heads in Lions camp the next couple of weeks and Akers "stubs his toe" than the heir apparent to long-time Lions PK Jason Hanson could be the "Kickalicious" king ...

And don't forget about Miami Dolphins PK Caleb Sturgis who bashed a 58-yard field goal in the Fish's easy 27-3 win at 1 ½-point underdog Jacksonville. Sturgis-who is competing with veteran PK Dan Carpenter for the job in South Beach-has overcome recent groin woes to wow head coach Joe Philbin and his staff. Might this competition be coming down to the final days in camp and might some of last year's critical misses by Carpenter (see home loss to the New York Jets) wind up costing the incumbent? Stay tuned ...

Meanwhile, one team that's squarely under the microscope these days are the Carolina Panthers who secured a 24-17 feel-good win/cover against 3-point road dog Chicago. Among the highlights of this Panthers preseason win was the play of their secondary and specifically CB Josh Norman who intercepted a pair of passes including a 60-yard "pick six" against Bears backup QB Matt Blanchard. The Panthers' coaching braintrust was not enthralled with the play of QB Cam Newton who threw into coverage in what turned into a 51-yard INT-for-TD by Chicago's Jon Bostic who took it back for 51 yards. Newton wound up throwing for only 16 yards and one touchdown while playing three offensive series-hardly the stuff third-year head coach Ron Rivera was looking for in this preseason debut ...

The Dallas Cowboys had a run-pass ratio of 34-to-24 in last weekend's 24-20 Hall of Fame Game win against Miami but Cowboys offensive coordinator/play-caller Bill Callahan opted for only 20 rushes with 32 passes in Friday's 19-17 loss at Oakland. Okay, so maybe the return of QB Tony Romo-he sat out the H.O.F. Game after having a cyst removed from his back-had something to do with the change in plans for Callahan who couldn't have been happy with the production of RB Joseph Randle (just 16 yards on 8 carries) following his rock-solid 13, carry, 70-yard ground game against Miami ...Note that expected Dallas starting RB DeMarco Murray finished the game versus the Raiders with 8 yards rushing on two carries ...

Finally, no need to push the panic button if you're a fan of the Green Bay Packers.

True, Friday's 17-0 home loss versus 2-point road underdog Arizona marked the first time the Packers were blanked in a preseason game since 1987 and the G-Bay secondary left Cardinals wide receivers open for much of the night but keep in mind the NFC North crew played without five starters including WR Randall Cobb (biceps) and rookie RB Eddie Lacy (hamstring).

Earlier in the week the Packers lost LT Bryan Bulaga-presumably for the season-with a torn ACL and later in the week it was announced that Green Bay wide-out Jordy Nelson will be out through training camp after undergoing knee surgery.

On the flip side, the Carson Palmer Era began for the Redbirds with the former Cincinnati and former Oakland slinger completing 4-of-6 passes for 77 yards with one touchdown-a 38-yard scoring strike to WR Andre Roberts-and while you can hardly make any long-range forecasts for Palmer based on his limited play against a banged-up/bad secondary, the fact is the Cards at least have a direction at this all-important position after four players bungled their way to a five-win season last year when 'Zona scored more than 21 points only once in the final 12 games. Ugh!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S WEEKEND REFRESHER

Believe it or not, the 2013 NCAA Football season kicks off less than three weeks from now-there's Eight (8) on-the-board games slated for Thursday, August 29th-and so let's dig you out some spread stats on teams playing that very first evening:

NORTH CAROLINA-The Tar Heels will travel to Columbia for a prime-time ESPN bash versus South Carolina and thought you might like to know that UNC's covered eight of its last 12 non-conference games while dating back to the start of the 2010 campaign.

MINNESOTA-The Big 10 team hosts two-TD underdog UNLV come Opening Night and Minny sports a solid 9-5 ATS (against the spread) mark in home games dating back to the start of 2010. Still, remember last year when Minnesota opened the year at 9 ½-point underdog UNLV and came away with a 30-27 non-cover victory that took three overtimes to complete.

OLE MISS-The pointspread history books don't lie and they say that the Ole Miss Rebels have failed to cover nine of their last 11 head-to-head showdowns against long-time SEC rival Vandy and that includes last year's narrow 27-26 win by the 2 ½-point road dog Commodores. Right now the Rebs are listed as a 3-point betting favorite-note that the Las Vegas price tag originally opened with Ole Miss favored by just a single point.

USC - Right out of the starting gate the Men of Troy are laying a three-TD (or so) steep price while going up against a rebuilding Hawaii team and let us be the first to tell you that Southern Cal is only 8-9 versus the vig as twin-digit betting favorites under fourth-year head coach Lane Kiffin.

NOTE: Lots more NFL Preseason and NCAA Football News & Notes straight ahead here in Jim Sez!

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