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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:20 AM

We know that it's early, but ...Through the first full week of the National Football League's Preseason play, the NFL's Betting Favorites were busy flexing their muscles with a sparking 12-4 ATS (against the spread) record that included Monday's 20-16 win/cover by the 3-point favorite Houston Texans over the dogged New York Jets.

As we've told you before right here in these Jim Sez pages, last year NFL Preseason Betting Favorites wound up a collective 30-32-3 versus the vig (a .484 winning rate) and - more often than not - these NFL Preseasons generally see Favorites vs. Underdogs finish right around the .500 mark and so folks who believe in the "due theory" might be so inclined to wager on the NFL Underdogs this week ... but be careful about holding tight to that theory because it may be more important right here/right now to recognize what NFL teams really want to win/cover in these exhibition games (or didn't you notice how the Texans inserted some defensive starters back into the lineup late in that aforementioned win against the Jets?).

Lots to chew on all this week/weekend with NFL Preseason Week 2 action beginning with a pair of games on Thursday night - that's New England at Tampa Bay and Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET on Fox) and than there's also nightly action from Friday thru Monday, so now hear this:

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! Plus, make sure to get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too each and every day -- just remember to call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and make sure you're all aboard for a summer filled with all our NFL Preseason and MLB winners! The calling/check-in times are after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays; anytime after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball action; and than anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the weeknight action in both Football and Baseball. 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 and so make sure you're all aboard for college gridiron winners!



The action does kick off Thursday night and there will be plenty of folks eyeballing how the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary plays one week after Washington QB Rex Grossman toasted 'em for 207 passing yards in a 16-7 win/cover by the 2 ½-point home favorites. The Steelers say CB Ike Taylor (thumb surgery on Tuesday) won't play here in this home game against Philadelphia but now Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin also is saying that CBs Cortez Allen, Crezdon Butler and Bryant McFadden also won't suit up either thanks to a variety of ailments. Keep in mind the four starters in the Steelers' secondary - a unit burnt badly in last year's Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers as QB Aaron Rodgers threw for 304 yards and 3 TDs - all will be at least 30 years old by November although S Troy Polamalu claims the unit is wiser than a year ago - okay, we'll see ...

Meanwhile, staying in the AFC North the Baltimore Ravens host Kansas City come Friday night and it'll be interesting to see how recently-acquired WR Lee Evans will play after bumbling around in the Tuesday practice. Evans - who just came over to the Ravens after eight years with the Buffalo Bills -- reportedly committed a false start on one play and than in the ensuing snap he ran downfield looking to make a block when instead a pass play was called for him by QB Joe Flacco who fired the ball into Evans' back ...

Finally, the Houston Texans are operating on a "short week" following Monday's 20-16 win/cover against the 3-point underdog New York Jets and no question that new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will look for better tackling by his linebackers/defensive backs - you might have caught Phillips on camera imploring rookie S Shiloh Keo (Idaho) to "wrap up" after he failed to bring down NYJ running backs and wide receivers during one Jets possession in the second half.

The Texans will host the high-octane New Orleans Saints on Saturday night and while Houston was outwardly thrilled by the play of rookie defensive end J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and OLB Brooks Reed (Arizona) along with OLB Bryan Braman (6 tackles 1 ½ sacks and a forced fumble) the fact of the matter is the tackling in space was awful and Houston corners still allowed too big a cushion to Jets' WR Santonio Holmes and Company.



If you listen to the "experts" out there, they will be quick to tell you that Stanford QB Andrew Luck is the hands-down frontrunner for this year's Heisman Trophy but - than again - who believed that an Auburn quarterback named Cameron Newton would win last year when he wasn't so much as listed on anyone's pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate boards?

Okay, so Luck heads into this upcoming 2011 NCAA Football Season as the "frontrunner" but here's how we would rank 'em 1-thru-5 even before they ever kick if off - and remember they DO kick if off two weeks from now when the 2011 campaign swings into action on Thursday, September 1st with a handful of on-the-board games including UNLV at Wisconsin (on ESPN) and Miss State at Memphis (on Fox Sports Network).

#1. ANDREW LUCK, QB, STANFORD - The nation's numero uno pro prospect comes off an amazing season in which he completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for 3,338 yards with 32 TDs and only 9 INTs for a Cardinal club that won 12 games including the 40-12 Orange Bowl romp over Virginia Tech. Maybe Luck will be hurt by the fact guru head coach Jim Harbaugh jumped ship to the NFL ranks (San Francisco 49ers) but he is surrounded by lots of returning talent and most in-the-know folks believe that Luck has a shot at throwing for 4,000 yards should Stanford's new boss David Shaw allow him to "cut it loose" with more deep balls.

#2. LAMICHAEL JAMES, RB, OREGON - Here's another Pac-10 star who figures to shine brightly in this year's Heisman Trophy race and no doubt it helps that the Ducks run their "Blur Ball" offense where getting off extra snaps is a key element to a player's overall individual stats. Note that James - who suffered through some ankle woes a year ago - still finished with 1,731 yards rushing (a nation's best 144.3 yards per game) while averaging a haughty 5.9 yards a pop to go along with 21 TDs. James could bone up his Heisman Trophy cause with more catches out of the backfield but what actually might hurt his chances is the fact the Ducks do like to "spread the wealth".

#3. JUSTIN BLACKMON, WR, OKLAHOMA STATE - Last year's Biletnikoff Award winner was an absolute monster in the Cowboys' high-tech offense that averaged 44.2 points a game as Blackmon registered 111 receptions for 1,782 yards (a 16.1 ypc average) and 20 TDs. If Okie State signal-caller Brandon Weeden targets Blackmon 15 times a game in 2011, than this Big 12 wide-out might wind up spending the second Saturday in December holding aloft College Football's most coveted piece of hardware.

#4. KELLEN MOORE, QB, BOISE STATE - It only seems as if this lefty slinger has been in college for the past 20 years but the fact of the matter is this is Moore's swan song season and he's got plenty of Heisman Trophy "momentum" while heading into the upcoming campaign. In fact, last year Moore guided the Broncos to a 12-1 season while completing 71.3 percent of his passes for 3,845 yards with 35 TDs and 6 INTs. Don't discount a real-live Heisman Trophy run here should Moore and Company beat Georgia on Labor Day Weekend. Note that B-State is a 3-point betting favorite for that "neutral game" inside the Georgia Dome.

#5. LANDRY JONES, QB, OKLAHOMA - Let's not forget about the Sooners' still-underrated chucker who last year aired 38 TD passes while throwing for an amazing 4,718 yards. Jones has all his key weaponry back - including WR Ryan Broyles (131 receptions last year) and so this could be a real stat-sheet stuffing season for Jones but he may need to get into the BCS National Championship Game to get his individual glory. Stay tuned.

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