NFL Pre-Season Week 2 Previews

WE TAKE A LOOK AT THIS WEEKEND'S UPCOMING TILTS!

By Jim Hurley

Let’s just say that some NFL teams (and head coaches) would like to win at least two or three preseason games this summer…
Maybe it’s to wipe away the bad taste of a really bad 2013 season (we’re thinking about the Atlanta Falcons here, folks) or maybe it’s a head coach who needs a summertime “feel-good” moment or two (right, Dallas boss-man Jason Garrett?).

In any event —and as we’ve been telling you for more than two decades now here in these daily "Jim Sez" columns—the preseason means different things to different folks in NFL-land but they continue to mean just one thing to Jim Hurley’s Network®… more opportunities to just win!

And now hear this…

This year’s preseason is in full flight now as we’re right smack in the middle of Preseason Week 2 games and remember there’s still another two-plus weeks of money-making NFL Preseason Games straight ahead.

It rolls on with Four (4) games on this Friday evening featuring Philadelphia at New England, Tennessee at New Orleans, Detroit at Oakland and San Diego at Seattle —and then there’s Eight (8) more games on the Saturday card including Baltimore at Dallas, Atlanta at Houston and Arizona at Minnesota plus another Two (2) games Sunday including the prime-time Fox telecast between Kansas City at Carolina and then Preseason Week 2 finally wraps up with that game between Johnny Manziel’s Cleveland Browns at Washington on Monday Night Football on ESPN.

Plus the College Football campaign swings into high gear later in the month with a full weekend card scheduled for Thursday, August 28th through Monday, September 1st.

Also, take note that America’s #1 Handicapper continues to bang out 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 and get all the Football & Baseball winners … can’t beat that, right?

The NFL Preseason, the start of the College Football campaign and then Baseball action too—it’s always a major money-making time of the year for the Jim Hurley Network so why not join in on all the fun-and-profits right now!

NFL PRESEASON WEEK 2 GAMES:

Here's What's On Top Friday Night…
PHILADELPHIA (0-1) at NEW ENGLAND (0-1)—7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network

The Patriots won’t play all of their injured/veteran players here in this preseason gig, but expect QB Tom Brady (DNP in last Thursday’s 23-6 loss at 2½-point fav Washington) to get some snaps while the Eagles report WR Jeremy Maclin left yesterday’s rain-soaked practice with New England because of a tight hamstring.

Maclin had been competing all week against New England CB Darrelle Revis (and doing rather well, we might add) and that’s been a great challenge, of course—but now the oft-injured Maclin says he’ll try and test the hammy in this preseason game but odds are he’ll sit or be very limited in his snaps.
Best stat from last week’s 34-28 Eagles loss in Chicago:

Philly TE Zach Ertz caught a team-best four balls for a team-high 60 yards in that tilt at Soldier Field and we say watch Ertz carefully here because he could be catching a lot of the passes that once-upon-a-time were tossed in the general direction of new Washington WR DeSean Jackson.

TENNESSEE (1-0) at NEW ORLEANS (1-0)—8 p.m. ET
We touched on the topic a bit in yesterday’s edition of "Jim Sez", but what about that 8-carry, 83-yard rushing, 1-TD game by New Orleans RB Mark Ingram, who appeared quicker/stronger than ever before in last week’s win in St. Louis?

The Saints— and who can blame ‘em—want to know if this is the new/real Ingram who could perk up a ground game that last year ranked a lowly 25th in the NFL in rushing (92.1 yards per game) and it’s worth noting N’Orleans played that game last Friday without QB Drew Brees (oblique) and word is the Saints probably will sit Brees once again here even though he did participate in some team passing drills yesterday afternoon.

Tennessee, meanwhile, is starting to admit that maybe second-string QB Charlie Whitehurst (10-of-15 passing for 94yards in last week’s rainy 20-16 win/cover against 3-point road underdog Green Bay) can put some heat on incumbent QB Jake Locker, who has started only 18 of a possible 32 games for the Titans the past two years.

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DETROIT (1-0) at OAKLAND (0-1)—10 p.m. ET
Hey, we gotta wonder what’s left in the tank for the host Raiders here after the silver-and-black was involved in—get this—five separate brawls while scrimmaging with the next-door neighbor Dallas Cowboys the past couple of days in Oxnard.

No doubt the Raiders have bigger fish to fry as their cornerbacks experienced big-time headaches in dealing with the Cowboys’ bigger/stronger wide receivers and so let’s see in limited time whether or not Detroit WR Calvin Johnson—protective finger splint and all—will make some highlight plays here in his quarter-or-more play in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, Detroit backup QB Dan Orlovsky (12-of-23 passing for 89 yards with one sack in last weekend’s 13-12 home win against 1½-point fav Cleveland) is staying ready after starter Matthew Stafford committed 14 turnovers in his final seven games a year ago—hey, nobody’s saying Stafford’s job at No. 1 is in trouble, but do keep in mind Orlovsky is a Jim Caldwell “favorite” after the two spent time in Indianapolis a few seasons ago.

SAN DIEGO (1-0) at SEATTLE (0-1)—10 p.m. ET
Don’t look for Seahawks LT Russell Okung in this interconference tilt—Seattle head coach Pete Carroll told a local radio station that his Pro Bowl blocker will sit out one more week after undergoing off-season surgery to repair a torn ligament in a big toe.

Seattle also reports that fourth-round draft pick DE Cassius Marsh (UCLA) suffered a knee injury in Wednesday’s team practice and won’t be able to go here—note that in last Thursday’s penalty-filled 21-16 loss at Denver (a pick ‘em affair) Marsh finished with four tackles including one quarterback sack and looked wonderful.

On the flip side, the SD Chargers DL Corey Liuget did not practice yesterday because of a lingering ankle injury. Don’t expect Liuget to suit up for this tilt against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Here’s some of what’s ahead on this NFL Preseason Week 2 Saturday menu…

GREEN BAY (0-1) at ST. LOUIS (0-1)—4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
The Packers are looking for any sort of nugget when it comes to their secondary—remember last year Green Bay intercepted only 11 passes for the entire 2013 season—but a pair of picks in Wednesday’s intra-squad scrimmage had under-siege defensive coordinator Dom Capers feeling good and so let’s see if it translates here against a Rams bunch that finished a dismal 27th in the NFL in passing last year (averaged 195.3 yards per game) but played much of the season without franchise QB Sam Bradford.

When Green Bay airs it out here, meanwhile, we’ll be paying attention to St. Loo cornerbacks Brandon McGee and Greg Reid, who are trying to earn their stripes for Rams boss Jeff Fisher. These two Rams defenders have been very active in camp this week and St. Loo is looking to add depth to a D-backfield that didn’t always fare well against pass-first teams last year as Dallas scored 31 points on ‘em and Arizona posted a 30-point game on ‘em.

NEW YORK GIANTS (2-0) at INDIANAPOLIS (0-1)—7 p.m. ET
Tom Coughlin’s Giants are two games and some 20-plus practices into their 2014 summer and it’s full speed ahead for RB Rashad Jennings, who rushed 73 yards for a first-half touchdown in last Saturday’s 20-16 win against 3-point underdog Pittsburgh.

Now, Jennings—a free-agent signee from Oakland—goes against an Indianapolis rush defense that last year ranked a dismal 26th in the NFL and don’t forget the Colts also allowed a grand total of 384 ground yards in their playoff games against Kansas City (a 45-44 win against Kansas City) and New England (a 43-22 loss).

Two new Colts—D-lineman Arthur Jones and LB D’Qwell Jackson—hope to show that Indy’s improved in the rush defense department here plus the AFC South squad claims this defense is deeper than recent units… we’ll see about that, right?

BALTIMORE (1-0) at DALLAS (0-1)—7 p.m. ET
Let’s cut right to football here and ignore any/all of those dopey Jerry Jones photos that have dominated the Cowboys’ news cycle this past week… this old man simply doesn’t know when to “get off the stage”!

The Cowboys were encouraged on a few fronts by their practices with the Oakland Raiders this week as Dallas RB DeMarco Murray revved it up and got into early-season form and LB Justin Durant proved to be the team’s most active defender against the silver-and-black with a pair of pass breakups and some nifty run stops too.

On the flip side, the Ravens have loved what they’ve seen from rookie DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida State), who was disruptive in all those never-ending practices with the San Francisco 49ers the past several days. Right now the plan is to have Jernigan back up DT Haloti Ngata, but some folks inside the Ravens’ headquarters are starting to believe that Jernigan might well have to get on the field more. Let’s check his snaps/minutes here, okay?

BUFFALO (1-1) at PITTSBURGH (0-1)—7:30 p.m. ET
The Bills and Steelers have been scrimmaging against one another for the better part of this past week in Latrobe and things have really ratcheted up in terms of physical play—let’s see if there is a carryover here in this Saturday night game at Heinz Field.

No doubt one major part of this week’s practices has included the Buffalo pass/catch combo of second-year QB EJ Manuel and rookie WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson) and the two did get in a real working rhythm after Watkins first dropped a ball in which he appeared to timidly pull up on a pass with an oncoming Steelers defender in his air space. C’mon rook!

Pittsburgh— which ranked 25th in the league in sacks (34) last year—figures to throw some different looks at Manuel and the other Bills’ QB here and so let’s see if Buffalo turns to the screen game to make some big-yardage plays.

Note that both FB Will Johnson and S Will Allen exited a mid-week practice against the Bills with hamstring injuries though Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin claimed neither injury was “severe”.

ATLANTA (1-0) at HOUSTON (0-1)—8 p.m. ET
One week after the Texans were smoked 32-0 in the Arizona desert, it appears first-year head coach Bill O’Brien is making it clear that positions are still open to be won.

One such position is along the offensive line where rookie G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA) snagged a bunch of first-team reps in a mid-week practice. The Texans have a Pro Bowl LT in Duane Brown, but the remainder of this blocking wall is spotty and it’s hoped Su’a-Filo can be a long-time fixture and here look for his battles against Atlanta’s interior defensive linemen to be “contentious” as the Falcons have been more than a little feisty in training camp… haven’t you been watching “Hard Knocks”?

The Falcs really liked what rookie RB Devonta Freeman (Florida State) game ‘em in last Friday’s 16-10 win against Miami. Freeman ran the ball 10 times for 50 yards, and caught a wheel-route pass worth 57 yards and you could see in the “Hard Knocks” episode this past week that Atlanta head coach Mike Smith really wants to get the ball in Freeman’s hands as much as humanly possible.

ARIZONA (1-0) at MINNESOTA (1-0)—8:30 P.M.
Both of these clubs copped home wins in Preseason Week 1 action, but was anyone better in last week’s exhibition games than the Redbirds?

In all, the Arizona Cardinals sported a 27-to-9 “edge” in first downs in their 32-0 win against Houston and did you check the boxscore and see that the NFC West team threw for 326 yards while averaging a haughty 8.8 yards per pass attempt?

It sure helped that backup rookie QB Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech) was super-sharp while completing 11-of-12 passes for 113 yards, and that included a 12-yard scoring toss to WR Dan Buckner.

On the flip side, all eyes again will be Minnesota rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), who has a miniscule shot to be the No. 1 signal-caller when the season starts in early September—it’s Matt Cassel’s job to lose and don’t expect ‘em to lose it!—as the former ‘Ville slinger ran hot-and-cold in last week’s 10-6 win/cover versus 3-point underdog Oakland. Bridgewater completed 6-of-13 passes for 49 yards against the Raiders, but he either held the ball too long (see the two sacks) or didn’t fit it in the “window”—obvious examples of why he needs to sit to start the year but here’s hoping he gets a quarter-or-more of game action here.

NOTE: There’s NFL News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez plus keep an eye peeled for more NCAA Conference/League Previews, too.

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