The Jim Sez Preseason Notebook and Top 5 College Storylines
THE JIM SEZ NFL PRESEASON NOTEBOOK
ARE THE PACKERS NO LONGER THE SUPER BOWL FAVS WITH THAT INJURY TO WR NELSON? PLUS TONIGHT'S BENGALS-BUCS GAME AND EXAMINING THE 0-AND-2 TEAMS THIS SUMMER
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT: THE 2015 SEASON IS JUST MORE THAN A WEEK AWAY AND WE HAVE THE TOP 5 STORYLINES INCLUDING OUR HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER
By Jim Hurley:
Oh, about five or six weeks back, the Green Bay Packers were declared the "new" betting favorites at 6-to-1 to cop Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara this season ... but is that all about to change now that veteran WR Jordy Nelson will be lost for the year with a non-contact knee injury suffered in Sunday's 24-19 loss at the 1-point favorite Pittsburgh Steelers?
The revised "Odds to Win it All" last month had placed the Pack above the likes of the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks (13-to-2), the Indianapolis Colts (8-1) and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (9-to-1) but the Nelson injury is such a killer than when the dust settles this week we won't at all be surprised if all of the above-named teams will be sporting the "shorter odds" to win it all than Green Bay.
All of a sudden, the likes of Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery just became way more important in the scheme of things for Mike McCarthy's NFC North crew - keep in mind last year Nelson registered 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 TDs and he's been QB Aaron Rodgers' favorite target for the past half-dozen seasons.
In our minds, he's one of the top 15 players in the NFL these days - and maybe eight or nine players we deem more important are quarterbacks.
Often times we talk about devastating injuries to quarterbacks that tend to "sabotage" a team's real Super Bowl hopes but this ACL injury to Nelson - yes, one suffered in a so-called meaningless preseason game but everyone's simply gotta get over that fact because it could have happened at practice or on the first play from scrimmage in the regular season - just tore the heart right out of "cheeseheads" everywhere.
Perhaps you caught Rodgers chatting with Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger following Sunday's game at Heinz Field - you could practically read his lips and his mind while letting Roethlisberger know the bad news about Nelson.
It may be "next man up" time in Green Bay, but everyone in/around football is gonna miss his explosive playmaking abilities. Whatta shame!
Meanwhile, one more game that will wrap up the Preseason Week 2 card and that's here on Monday Night Football ...
CINCINNATI (1-0) at TAMPA BAY (0-1) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Lots of folks were yammering about how erratic Tampa Bay rookie QB Jameis Winston was in his debut last Saturday in that 26-16 loss in Minnesota - except the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner didn't seem discouraged at all.
In fact, Winston - who completed 9-of-19 passes for 131 yards with one INT against the Vikes - chalked it up to general inexperience in the league and here will look to establish a better rapport with star WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans here.
On the flip side, Cincinnati will be playing its offensive starters for more than two minutes and 55 seconds here - that's the length of game time the Bengals' offensive starters played in the 23-10 home win against the New York Giants in Preseason Week 1.
The Bengals loved the fact that WR Greg Little and TE Tyler Eifert combined for five receptions worth 95 yards in that game and both will have a serious size advantage here against the Bucs' secondary - so, is the "wrong team" favored here as the Las Vegas folks have Tampa Bay favored by 2.5 points at last glance. Click here for Jim's MNF pick in this game - just $10.
If you have not yet checked out the "standings" this preseason, then let us be the first to tell you the following NFL clubs are 0-2 SU (straight-up) thus far this summer ... the Cleveland Browns, the Seattle Seahawks, the Miami Dolphins, the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys and the St. Louis Rams. Okay, so that's eight teams - pending Tampa Bay's result against Cincinnati - and we'd say at least three of those teams should be more than just a little bit worried:
CLEVELAND - The Browns have yet to iron out their quarterback situation and now here's supposed starter Josh McCown with a ring finger injury after he was intercepted twice in three offensive series against Buffalo this past Thursday night ... can you just let Johnny Manziel have the job and run with it!
NEW ORLEANS - We don't want to say that history is repeating itself with the Saints but remember all the close games they lost a year ago? Now, this summer N'Orleans has lost a last-second game to Baltimore and then blew a late-game lead in a 26-24 loss versus New England. Plus, we're not sure this Saints defense - that's starters and backups both - is really any good after a steep decline in play a year ago.
ST. LOUIS - Gotta admit we thought the Rams would care more about their preseason game in Nashville on Sunday night (former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher's return game home and all) but instead St. Loo was never in the darn thing en route to a 27-14 loss as the "ones" were really rotten as the offense was shut out in the first half and the defensive front didn't exactly rattle rookie QB Marcus Mariota (see five completions for 59 yards). No doubt there's been lots of talk about how this St. Louis defensive front will be "dominant" and maybe we've been buying it but right now the Rams look lost and could be 4-12 this year if they aren't careful.
As you well know, the College Football 2014 campaign swings into high gear with a full week/weekend card scheduled for Thursday, September 3rd and going right through Labor Day. Folks, you definitely want to be in the winner's circle for all the big opening-week tilts with the college games starting with South Carolina versus North Carolina (in Charlotte) next Thursday along with other key holiday weekend tilts such as Washington at #23 Boise State (next Friday), #15 Arizona State versus Texas A&M (from Houston) and #20 Wisconsin versus #3 Alabama (from Arlington) next Saturday. And the NFL Preseason Week 3 rolls on this Friday/Saturday/Sunday with national TV tilts such as Detroit at Jacksonville (on Friday), Seattle at San Diego (Saturday) and Arizona at Oakland (Sunday night).
Take note that Jim Hurley -- America's #1 Handicapper - also continues to bang out lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do to win in the NFL, NCAA Football and MLB is to 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 ... can't beat that, right? Get with the Jim Hurley Network and join in on all the fun-and-profits right now!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL UPDATE
Okay, so in keeping with recent years here at Jim Sez when we kicked off the NCAA Football season by looking at the top 5 storylines, here goes for 2014:
1 - WILL OHIO STATE REPEAT AS NATIONAL CHAMPS?
Last year we wisely forecast that the then-defending champion Florida State Seminoles would not repeat ... and we wuz right! Now, don't look for the Ohio State Buckeyes to be holding the title trophy aloft at year's end as this two-quarterback system could well blow up in their faces and it's a whole different story when you're the "hunted".
2 - WHAT TEAM(S) WILL BE COMING OUT THE WOODWORK TO MAKE A RUN AT THE NATIONAL TITLE?
When the season-opening Associated Press Top 25 rankings were released for the first time this season, the Cincinnati Bearcats were one of those "also receiving votes" teams outside the first 25 but we say Tommy Tuberville's crew is a real dark horse with QB Gunner Kiel a diamond in the rough and that sked featuring six winnable road games. Maybe Cincy's in that "final four" at year's end, we'll see.
3 - WHAT NEW COACH IS GOING TO MAKE A MAJOR SPLASH IN A FIRST-YEAR SITUATION?
Okay, so we were dead wrong last year when declaring Wake Forest's Dave Clawson our man here -- the Demon Deacons slogged through a 3-9 campaign - and we'll decline to fall into the morass of folks who believe Michigan's Jim Harbaugh will turn the maize-and-blue around from Year One and instead elect Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi as our star. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator loves the fact there are eight defensive starters back from last year's bowl team and he'll mold this unit into a real force.
4 - HOW ABOUT A TEAM THAT WILL FLOP FACE-MASK FIRST THIS YEAR?
The Baylor Bears are #4 in the AP rankings but Art Briles' club has had a difficult start already with some off-the-field woes brought their way by a transfer student plus the absence of QB Bryce Petty will hit 'em sooner or later. Gut feeling is this Baylor team is borderline Top 25 at year's end and quite possibly not even a part of the January bowl menu.
5 - FINALLY, HOW ABOUT THE 1-2-3 FINISHERS IN THIS YEAR'S HEISMAN TROPHY RACE?
Okay, so considering we didn't even have Mariota on our short list a year ago, guess you can take this Heisman Trophy ballot with a proverbial grain of salt but we say it's Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine, TCU QB Trevone Boykin and dark horse candidate QB Cody Kessler of USC.