Jim Sez for Wednesday, August 5 …


Remember that David Bowie song way back when that went something like this … "Ch-ch-ch-ch changes".
Well, the NFL was full of changes following the 2014 season whether you're talking the seven new head coaches that dot the landscape or the superstars who changed uniforms (see New York Jets' CB Darrelle Revis, Miami defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy or Philadelphia RB DeMarco Murray, just to name a few) or the rookies that will look to make a splash – especially those new quarterbacks in Tampa Bay and Tennessee named Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, respectively -- or some of the truly under-the-radar changes that tend to be difference-makers one way or the other.

In short, while we look ahead at the NFL Hall of Fame Game and thus the beginning of this here-and-now 2015 NFL Preseason this Sunday night, the fact of the matter is nobody stands still from year-to-year – note that many teams in this man's NFL change as much as 35-to-40 percent of their roster during a two-year period – and whether it's the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots who imported more than a handful of new free agents into the mix or it's the 2-and-14 TB Bucs who had plenty of personnel fine-tuning on their menu, the word of the day is "change".

Here's some of the changes well worth paying attention to as we approach the start of this 2015 NFL campaign plus we'll get you more in the next couple of Jim Sez columns …
Let's start with one of the teams in action this Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers battle the Minnesota Vikings in the aforementioned HOF Game: The Steelers will have long-time assistant coach Keith Butler calling the shots on defense as Dick LeBeau has moved on to coach in Tennessee. The 75-year-old LeBeau was the Steelers' defensive coordinator since 2004 and – while Butler will continue to implement the 3-4 defensive front employed in years past under head coach Mike Tomlin – you can expect some changes coming too with more secondary blitzes …

As far as the other team playing this Sunday in the HOF Game, the Vikings ranked a lowly 28th in the NFL in passing a year ago (averaged just 202.8 yards per game through the air waves) and thus the gamble to trade for disgruntled WR Mike Wallace from Miami who must prove he's the home run threat that he was in Pittsburgh a few years back and not the underachieving complainer he was in South Beach last year …

Maybe nowhere in NFL circles were there more changes for a good team than in Philadelphia where – famously or infamously – third-year head coach Chip Kelly has overhauled a roster that did produce 10 wins but no playoff berth a year ago. As stated above, gone is – among others -- RB McCoy, QB Nick Foles, OLB Trent Cole and WR Jeremy Maclin – while enter LB Kiko Alonso, QB Sam Bradford, CB Byron Maxwell and first-round draftee WR Nelson Agholor.
No doubt Kelly's taken a public relations hit or two from his ex-players but if he can shape this team into a post-season squad, then the City of Brotherly Love will give 'em a round of applause. Good thing the Birds have four weeks of preseason games to iron out some wrinkles, right?

Folks, Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers want to welcome you to the start of the 2015 Football Season.
Okay, so it all actually begins this Sunday with the NFL's annual Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Minnesota Vikings and there's another four weeks of money-making NFL Preseason Games that follow while the College Football campaign swings into gear in early September.

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?

We plan on digging into all the major-college conference previews in the next couple of weeks as everyone continues to bone up on this upcoming FBS season that kicks off September 3rd (see North Carolina at South Carolina, Michigan at Utah and TCU at Minnesota for some nice little "appetizers") but first let's remind you folks about the powerful pointspread prowess of these three FBS teams these past couple of seasons:

MICHIGAN STATE – Nobody's gonna deny the fact that Sparty is now considered one of the nation's truly elite football teams but did you realize this Big 10 power was busy banging out 68 percent winners spreadwise these past two years?

Mark Dantonio's team – which ended last season on a rousing four-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak that included pointspread victories against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State (all bowl teams) – has compiled 8-4-1 and 9-4 spread seasons back to back and that collective 17-8-1 spread log features January bowl covers against Baylor (last year's dramatic come-from-behind 42-41 win in the Cotton Bowl) and Stanford (see a 24-20 triumph over 7.5-point fav Stanford in the Rose Bowl).
It has not escaped our attention that the Spartans have become a real road beast with a 9-2-1 ATS away record the last two years, so keep that in mind with M-State playing road tilts this year at Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State.

MISSOURI – It's not often a major-college team can cash bets at a 70 percent rate but check out these Mizzou Tigers: The two-time SEC East champs are 19-8 ATS overall these past two years and remember Gary Pinkel's club is 13-5 versus the vig in all conference games .. va-va-va-voom!
More than once we've heard Missouri be called the "forgotten team" in the SEC but maybe it's high time the rest of the league sit up and take notice – after all, the Tigers are a collective 7-1 against the quartet of teams Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

P.S., Missouri has covered nine of its last 11 spread verdicts when placed in the underdog role the past two years and, if you're searching out possible dog roles here in 2015, then look at the game at Georgia on Oct. 17th and the game at Arkansas on Nov, 27th.

RICE – Surprise, surprise, the Owls are 17-10 vig-wise these past two seasons (a .629 winning rate) with last year's sizzling 9-4 ATS campaign a major boon as it featured the 30-6 Hawaii Bowl blowout win against Fresno State (a pick 'em game).
The fact of the matter is Rice was a double-digit betting underdog three times last year and failed to cover twice (versus Notre Dame and Marshall) while slipping under a hefty 31.5-point price tag against Texas A&M but if you go back to the start of the 2013 season you'll see the Owls are 15-7 ATS overall when not put into the role of twin-figure underdog.

NOTE: More NFL Camp News plus lots more in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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