Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 10:59 AM
Here's the skinny, folks. There are Six (6) National Football League teams that enter Preseason Week 3 play with 2-and-oh SU (straight-up) records and we're here to tell you today what really should be exciting these squads after two winning weeks in this merry month of August.
Here goes ...
NEW ENGLAND - The Patriots have simply steamrolled a pair of Sunshine State teams this Preseason as Bill Belichick's crew walloped Jacksonville 47-12 and then followed that up with a rollicking 31-14 win last Thursday night in Tampa Bay.
Hey, it doesn't take a so-called rocket scientist to tell you that QB Tom Brady is "on his game" - although he didn't even suit up for that Preseason opener versus the Jaguars - but what really has the folks in/around Foxboro all juiced up is that rookie RB Stevan Ridley (LSU) has looked so darn good: Ridley rushed 14 times for 84 yards in that win at Tampa Bay and that's after he registered three scores against Jacksonville the week before and so a real nifty one-two punch is developing in the RB position with dependable/steady BenJarvus Green-Ellis (11 carries for 51 yards with two TDs against the Bucs) also very much in the mix.
Stop Brady? Well, there's other guys that'll beat you here and something tells us Ridley and Green-Ellis could be 1,500-yard rushing guys between 'em in this upcoming 2011 campaign.
WASHINGTON - Maybe the Redskins should temper their overall enthusiasm a tiny bit considering the NFC East club topped a disinterested Pittsburgh Steelers squad in Preseason Week 1 and then leveled a short-handed Indianapolis Colts crew 16-3 last Friday night (and as 6-point road betting favorites, to boot). But no reason to temper the enthusiasm when it comes to this offensive line that opened some big holes for RBs Tim Hightower (see 58-yard run just two plays into the game) and rookie Roy Helu (Nebraska) who finished with 14 carries for 101 ground yards including a 51-yard burst.
P.S, the Redskins wound up rushing for 215 yards on 35 carries (a haughty 6.1 ypc average) in the win against the Colts.
Keep in mind that last year the 'Skins finished 30th in the 32-team NFL in rushing (91.3 yards per game) and so no wonder QBs Rex Grossman and John Beck have had more time in the pocket and better protection this summer - the QB position is getting all the ink in the nation's capital but run-blocking will be a major key as to whether or not this club's in contention for a playoff berth.
DETROIT - Nobody's saying the Lions are gonna make a monumental leap this year and pass the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers inside the NFC North but it's worth mentioning that overall team depth has improved under third-year boss-man Jim Schwartz. Once upon a time the Lions were a major mess if injury took down a first-stringer but last weekend's 30-28 win at 2½-point fav Cleveland proved there's some dependable pass-catchers on this roster not named WR Calvin Johnson.
Note that Johnson did not play in this road win last Friday thanks to some nagging injuries but in his stead veteran WR Nate Burleson nabbed a leaping four-yard touchdown catch from QB Matthew Stafford and don't forget that WR Maurice Stovall snagged four balls worth 67 yards and one score (a 7-yard scoring strike delivered by reserve QB Drew Stanton) that capped a brief 5-play, 20-yard scoring march.
Remember when the Lions drafted wide out after wide out all those years ago with first-round picks?
Well, not many of 'em are still around but wide receiver - after all these years - could be a major team strength in 2011.
HOUSTON - Now that the Texans have pronounced themselves to be "back" on offense after totaling 436 yards in last Saturday's never-in-doubt 27-14 win against 2½-point favorite New Orleans, the Lone Star State squad wants folks to sit up and take notice of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' new-and-improved unit.
Hey, last year Houston ranked dead-last in the league against the pass (267.5 yards a game) and tied for 23rd in the NFL with only 30 quarterback sacks but last weekend there were the Texans ringing up four QB sacks worth 68 yards and often knocking the high-octane Saints offense out of good field position. Remember that Houston rolled up seven sacks in a 20-16 Preseason Week 1 clash against the New York Jets two Monday nights ago.
Now, throw in the fact that Houston collected three turnovers against N'Orleans (that's two fumble recoveries and an INT of backup QB Chase Daniel) and it's becoming increasingly clear that this newfangled 3-4 scheme will be a "keeper" for a team that simply didn't know how to finish games a year ago.
Defensive end Antonio Smith - who forced an early-game fumble by Saints QB Drew Brees - might be a secret weapon for the AFC South guys.
ST. LOUIS - Let's be frank: The Rams and their third-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo didn't have a whole lot of glowing things to say about their 17-16 non-cover win against 3½-point pup Tennessee last Saturday night but it's hard to ignore the fact that St. Loo's red-zone defense played exceedingly well.
The visiting Titans settled for PK Rob Bironas field goals of 25 and 23 yards following his 46-yard boomer midway through the opening quarter and so that served as a pick-me-up for a Rams team that allowed 198 yards rushing (note that Tennessee averaged a whopping 5.7 yards a pop).
Note that St. Louis has surrendered just one touchdown in each of its first two Preseason games this summer and both of them occurred in the second half of these games when backups were on the field.
MIAMI - Here's something to chew on if you're a Dolphins fan:
This AFC East team only won back-to-back games once all of last season and that was in Week 1 and Week 2 of regular-season play en route to a 7-9 SU season. So, forgive the South Florida fans for getting a bit giddy these days after the Dolphins defeated 5½-point underdog Carolina 20-10 last Friday after banging out a 28-23 win in Atlanta back in the Preseason's opening week of play.
The Dolphins' defense limited Carolina to just 10 first downs and note Miami allowed the Panthers just a 3-of-12 success rate on third-down plays. Afterwards everyone wanted to talk about that punishing 17-yard up-the-gut run by new Dolphins' star RB Reggie Bush but make no mistake that Tony Sparano's club will win or lose this year based on whether or not this defense can put the wraps on enemy offenses.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers win with Sides & Totals all throughout the NFL Preseason - now America's #1 Handicapper will rock Las Vegas big-time all summer long!
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And don't forget that the 2011 NCAA Football Season swings into action on Thursday, September 1st with a batch of on-the-board games including TV tilts between UNLV at Wisconsin and Miss State at Memphis and so make sure you're all aboard for college gridiron winners!
P.S., there's a full slate on College Football Games set for Labor Day Weekend (that's September 2nd-through-September 5th) including key out-of-conference games between Boise State versus Georgia and Oregon-LSU.
NOTE: Get more NFL Preseason News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez as we Preview some Week 3 games.