Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 10:54 AM
The curtain rises up tonight on the NFL '11 season and there are so many league storylines right now it's hard to limit them to just a few: There's the Peyton Manning story brewing in Indianapolis – he won't play this Sunday at AFC South rival Houston (and note that Las Vegas pointspread has gone from the Texans minus 2 points to minus 9 points) and Manning might miss a handful of games for a franchise that's made the playoffs the last nine years in a row and been to a pair of Super Bowls the past five years;
There's the “coaches on the hot seat” deal right out of the starting gate and – yes – we're talkin' to you, Norv Turner (San Diego) and Gary Kubiak (Houston) and Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville) -- as sluggish starts to this here-and-now campaign could get any/all of the above shelved even before we ever get to the month of October;
And what about the old faces-in-new-places deal as we refer to the likes of Arizona QB Kevin Kolb – will he be the answer to the Cardinals post-Kurt Warner Era problems at this position – and will Miami RB Reggie Bush be a real difference-maker after some less-than-spectacular seasons in New Orleans and what about new/old Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb?
Like we said, a whole lot of NFL water-cooler talk goodies are on the table and so it's time to get things started tonight with the New Orleans Saints at the Green Bay Packers (see accompanying game preview) in the NFL Kickoff Game 2011 and do keep in mind the Pack's won/covered each of their last four season-opening games under sixth-year head coach Mike McCarthy and here's proof (note home teams are in CAPS):
|2010||Green Bay (-3) PHILADELPHIA||Green Bay 27-20|
|2009||GREEN BAY (- 4.5) Chicago||GREEN BAY 21-15|
|2008||GREEN BAY (- 2.5) Minnesota||GREEN BAY 24-19|
|2007||Philadelphia ( - 3.5) GREEN BAY||GREEN BAY 16-13|
And now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win plenty this NFL and College Football season and so make sure you get it all jump-started with this week's NFL action right through Monday Night's twin-bill – that's the New England Patriots at the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders at the Denver Broncos -- and then, of course, get all the Winning Selections right through the BCS National Championship Game in January and Super Bowl 46 in early February.
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THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT:
THE THURSDAY/FRIDAY PREVIEWS
PLUS SPREAD NOTES TOO
Hope you caught the theme here in these back-to-back prime-time games these next couple of nights – it's the Big 12 (yes, with only 10 teams these days) versus the newfangled Pac-12 for bragging rights and a whole lot more and it's worth mentioning that last week Big 12 teams finished 3-2 against the odds in the regular on-the-board games (covers by Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas A&M and failed spread bids – fittingly -- by Missouri and Oklahoma State) while Pac-12 sides finished up the first week's action at 2-4 against the spread with pointspread winners by Stanford and California and against-the-odds losers by UCLA, USC, Oregon and new member Colorado).
Tonight, it's …
ARIZONA (1-0) at #9 OKLAHOMA STATE (1-0) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe the first thing that pops into everyone's mind when it comes to Oklahoma State is head coach Mike Gundy and his “I'm a man … I'm 40 (years old)” rant a few years back following a particularly tough stretch of time. But know this: The Okie State Cowboys have played in five consecutive bowl games (winning three of ‘em including triumphs over Alabama, Indiana and Arizona) and are a real-live legit threat to win this year's BCS Championship if things break right for the Stillwater squad – and it really gets going here in this under-the-lights tilt against two-TD underdog Arizona.
The Pokes are still getting used to new offensive coordinator Todd Monken but so far, so good as OSU piled up the yards/points in the 61-34 win against 38-point underdog UL-Lafayette last Saturday night. Quarterback Brandon Weeden – who aired three TD passes while zinging it for 388 yards – also threw two “pick sixes” here and Gundy later claimed his star signal-caller was “pressing”.
Keep an eye here on WR Justin Blackmon (8 catches for 144 yards last week) who is looking to repeat as the nation's Biletnikoff Award winner.
Arizona QB Nick Foles – who threw for 412 yards and five TDs in last weekend's workmanlike 41-10 win/cover against 27-point pup Northern Arizona – wants to prove he has the best pass-catcher on the field here in WR Juron Criner (6 catches for 151 yards and one TD) but an inexperienced O-line could be the weak link on this ‘Zona squad.
Spread Notes – Oklahoma State is a decent 10-7 against the odds whenever laying double-digit prices the past four-plus seasons and that includes last weekend's 61-34 non-cover win against 38-point dog UL-Lafayette (imagine not covering a number when you score more than a point-a-minute!). The Cowboys are 14-10 spreadwise when playing non-league opponents since the start of the Gundy Era back in 2005. Meanwhile, Arizona is a dreary 6-13 versus the vig in all away games the past three-plus seasons and that includes last year's aforementioned 36-10 Alamo Bowl loss against 4 ½-point fav Oklahoma State. The U of A Wildcats are also a rotten 2-5 spreadwise in their first road game of the season under eighth-year head coach Mike Stoops.
On Friday, it's …
#21 MISSOURI (1-0) at ARIZONA STATE (1-0) – 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Night Two of the Big 12 vs. Pac-12 features a ranked road team here and the 7 ½-point underdog Mizzou Tigers have lots of fixin' to do here after last Saturday's highly unimpressive 17-6 non-cover win against 19-point dog Miami-Ohio. Heck, even QB James Franklin (just 129 passing yards in the opener) gave himself a poor grade after that tilt (he said he deserved a “D” and he was right!).
If Missouri is gonna spring the upset here – and it will be an upset despite the rankings (that's a memo to the silly TV announcers who should indeed know who is the betting favorite!) -- than Franklin must shore up his game and Missouri must not be so darn sloppy (see 9 penalties for 81 yards against the RedHawks) while the home folks are circling this one as a “message game” of sorts for the country to see what the Sun Devils have – and what they have are some 20 starters back from last year's hard-luck 6-6 SU (straight-up) squad that didn't make it to the bowl party.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler (19-of-26 for 262 yards passing and two TDs) suffered bad leg cramps in last Thursday's 48-14 non-cover win for Arizona State against 37-point dog UC-Davis and now the Pac-12 guys have the two extra prep days here … will that be a major advantage or not?
Spread Notes – Missouri is a money-toasting 15-23 ATS (against the spread) overall since the start of the 2008 season and that despite a gaudy four-game ATS winning streak a year ago (consecutive covers versus Miami-Ohio, Colorado, Texas A&M and Oklahoma). In all, the Tigers are a collective 22-21 versus the vig whenever in the underdog role in the Gary Pinkel Era that began in 2001. Arizona State, meanwhile, had its five-game spread winning streak that dated back to last year snapped in last Thursday's triumph over UC-Davis. Overall, the A-State Sun Devils are 16-9 ATS at home in the Dennis Erickson Era that began in 2007.
NOTE: Get our NFL Kickoff Game re-cap of Saints-Packers in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez plus there's key College Football Previews too!