Super Bowl X Factors

OUR SUPER BOWL XLIX COVERAGE ROCK-N-ROLLS ON WITH A LOOK AT POTENTIAL X-FACTORS IN THE BIG GAME

PLUS WE GRADE THE NFL’S NEWEST HEAD COACHES (AND IT ISN’T PRETTY!)

ASIDE FROM COACH K AND HIS QUEST FOR HIS 1,000TH WIN, WHAT ELSE IS HOT ON THIS COLLEGE HOOPS WEEKEND MENU?

In yesterday’s edition of Jim Sez, we chucked some info your way regarding New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and Seattle Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson ... and you might have been a bit surprised to learn the Seahawks have a better SU (straight-up) and better ATS (against the spread) record these past three years under these respective signal-callers.

Now, in today’s Jim Sez we’ll examine potential X-factors on both sides - good chance we’ll expand on X-factor players next week when we really hone in on SB 49 but today we’ll limit comments to just one player on each team, so here goes:

JAMIE COLLINS, LB, NEW ENGLAND - You’ve been hearing for weeks now how this 6-foot-3, 250-pounder from Southern Miss is rounding into one of the better all-around defenders on this Patriots team and the stats prove that out as Collins has a team playoff-best 11 solo tackles to go along with 4 assisted tackles plus he’s had an INT too in this post-season.

If New England head coach/mastermind Bill Belichick decides that Collins will drop into coverage often here in SB 49, then he could shadow key TE/WR Luke Willson who has been a big playmaker in the latter half of this season - otherwise, can Collins (with some help) be able to stifle hard-charging RB Marshawn Lynch after he (pardon the pun) deflated Green Bay with last week’s NFC Championship Game showing?

STEVEN HAUSCHKA, PK, SEATTLE - Hard to believe that this Seahawks’ kicker has only attempted one post-season field goal this year (he nailed a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter of that NFC Divisional Playoff win against Carolina a couple of weeks back) although there’s no doubt Hauschka saved the Seattle hides with last week’s key onside kick botched by the Packers.

Still, you do have to wonder about Hauschka’s ability to make the big kick here - he drilled 30-of-39 regular-season FGs but did miss all three of this FG attempts in the Week 16 runaway win at Arizona.
If this SB 49 tilt comes down to a game-winning or game-tying try here, will Hauschka come up big?

Okay, so maybe the Senior Bowl on Saturday and/or the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday will satisfy your hunger for football this winter weekend as we all sit patiently and await Super Bowl XLXI next weekend in sunny Glendale.

As we’ve seen, the Las Vegas pointspread has stayed fairly steady this week as the Seattle Seahawks opened up as a 2.5- or 3-point betting favorite and immediately - or as fast as you could say Deflate-Gate - the number went to Pick ’Em and has pretty much stayed there in most venues although we’ve seen some Pats minus 1 here and there.

Also, take note that the original totals price of 49 points dropped to 48.5 and then 48 right away and it’s stayed that way all through this way pre-Super Bowl week.

In any event, we’ll have to skip competitive football for a weekend here as the aforementioned Senior Bowl and Pro Bowl can be fun viewing or absolutely pathetic depending on your personal point of view but keep in mind next week we’ll cover Super Bowl XLIX from head-to-toe, from A-to-Z in these Jim Sez columns and so you don’t want to miss out!

Meanwhile, let’s get to some gridiron chatter as we examine the recent NFL head coaching hires:

NFL NEWS & NOTES - GRADING THE NEW COACHING HIRES

The NFL head coaching carousel never has an "off-season" and so far seven of the league’s 32 head coaches have been replaced in the past month or so (and we are not yet finished) and so let’s take a few minutes to hand out our grades:

Rex Ryan, Buffalo - The Bills scooped up this former NY Jets head coach right after the Doug Marrone Saga ended  but Ryan is headed back to a very similar situation as the one he faced in New York with no real QB and a pretty fierce defense. Maybe you’ve noticed that Ryan has hired a batch of his former Jets’ assistants (count us among the folks who believe that’s a big mistake) and we don’t believe he’ll be a quick fix to this franchise’s playoff drought. Grade C

John Fox, Chicago - No doubt we’ve got conflicted feelings here because Fox has been one of the league’s better coaches for the past decade-and-a-half but the Bears merely hired a tired, old coach here and his best sideline years are behind him. Right, Chicago had a long history of hiring first-time head coaches for years and years but now it went the opposite end and hired a coach who’s stayed all too long at the dance. Grade: C

Gary Kubiak, Denver - Okay, so the John Elway connection to his long-time backup QB paved the way to this hire but did the Broncos blow it by not keeping offensive coordinator Adam Gase instead of opting for this former Houston Texans’ head coach? Grade: C+

Todd Bowles, New York Jets - In his press conference this past Wednesday, the former Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator talked about "changing the culture" with this misfit franchise and maybe he’s the man to do it but his hiring of OC Chan Gailey is a major mark against Bowles. Grade: B

Jack Del Rio, Oakland - The former Broncos’ defensive coordinator is a make-sense hire here especially when you consider all the defensive changes made a year ago but is Del Rio a real "plus" head coach? His years in Jacksonville was a mixed bag with just one playoff win. Grade: C+

Jim Tomsula, San Francisco - The Niners figured they owed it to their one-time interim head coach/defensive line coach but was he the best possible hire following the exodus of head coach Jim Harbaugh? Would have liked to see San Fran reach for an offensive mind (Gase or maybe New England OC Josh McDaniels) here. Grade: C-

Jim Hurley will have the Sides & Totals Winners of Super Bowl XLVIX when you check with us on game-day morning plus go ahead and continue to pile up the profits all this week with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - go ahead and pound the books today!

THE COLLEGE HOOPS WEEKEND REPORT

While everyone awaits to see if Duke head b-ball coach Mike Krzyzewski can snag win #1,000 on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden against the St. John’s Red Storm, there’s plenty of Top 25 goodies this weekend:

On Saturday ...
There’s a pair of matchups between Top 25 teams as #11 Kansas (15-3) is at #17 Texas (14-4) in a 2 p.m. ET tilt on CBS.

The Longhorns are playing more zone defense these days under veteran head coach Rick Barnes - but what Kansas team is gonna show up here as Bill Self’s squad has been a real hit-or-miss squad all year long? Note this begins a three-game home stand for the ’Horns who get Iowa State and Baylor next.

The other Top 24 bash on Saturday is also inside the Big 12 where #19 Oklahoma (12-6) is at #21 Baylor (4-4) and keep in mind the Baylor Bears are seeking payback here for the 73-63 loss in Norman back on January 3rd. The OU Sooners were powered by senior TaShawn Thomas who poured in 24 points in that conference clash and note Baylor shot a rotten 37 percent from the floor in that tilt.

On Sunday ...
Check out the in-state battle between #2 Virginia (18-0) at Virginia Tech (8-10) and - believe it or not - the Cavaliers have allowed 51-or-fewer points in four of their last five games including that mind-numbing 57-28 win against 17-point pup Georgia Tech this past Thursday night. Did you catch where G-Tech connected on just 12-of-49 FG tries in that one? Overall, Virginia has won 15 of its games by twin-figure margins this year and next up after this one in Hokie-land is a game versus Duke next weekend.

NOTE: More Super Bowl XLVIX coverage and NCAA/NBA Hoops comin’ your way all next week right here at Jim Sez ... and make sure you catch our Super Bowl Preview late next week.

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