Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM
Hey, Major-League Baseball fans we'll have National League and American League Report Card Grades in the next couple of Jim Sez columns as we head towards next week's All-Star Game ... so don't miss out! Find out what teams grabbed an A+ ... and who got an "F".
NFL NEWS & NOTES - TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS
Today we continue with our annual summertime NFL Team-by-Team looks of all 32 clubs. We will concentrate on three NFL teams per Jim Sez column the remainder of this week - and so there's still plenty of football straight ahead. In today's column space we highlight the New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks. Take note that we list the overall team records (including post-season play) next to the team names below:
NEW ENGLAND (13-5) - Now here's a quickie preview that won't mention anything about bad boy Aaron Hernandez!
Yes, there are other pressing items on the Patriots docket this summer not the least of which is how will QB Tom Brady fare without slot WR Wes Welker and with always-injured TE Rob Gronkowski not likely to be ready for the start of this 2013 campaign? Maybe new wide-out Danny Amendola - who has more size and speed than Welker at this point in time - will be Brady's newest favorite target when all's said and done.
In terms of the team's oft-criticized defense, one alleged bright spot for the Patriots is a linebacking corps that should be the strength of this team's defense:
Veteran Brandon Spikes is in his final contract year and so much is expected while both Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo showed major improvement and maturity as last season wore on as the fact of the matter is New England held five of its final six regular-season foes below the 20-point mark before allowing 28 points apiece to Houston and Baltimore in last year's AFC Playoffs.
Spread Notes - Last year's Patriots pounded out a respectable 10-7-1 ATS (against the spread) log that featured seven wins by 21-or-more points with the most impressive rout coming in a 59-24 home triumph over Indianapolis. In all, New England split 10 spread verdicts when in the home favorite's role while the Pats churned out a 4-2-1 pointspread record when in the role of road favorite. Note that the Pats finished 3-2-1 ATS in AFC East games and 7-5 vig-wise outside divisional play.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be banging out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners all summer long and so check with us right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners. Plus, the Football Season isn't that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear in early August - can't wait! So, pile up the greenbacks while you're kicking back this summer of 2013!
ATLANTA (14-4) - Maybe the single-most scrutinized person in the greater Atlanta area this year will be Falcons' offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
After all, there's gonna be lots of Falcons fans who want to see veteran RB Steven Jackson and scat-back Jacquizz Rodgers on the field at the same time even in shotgun formations utilized by now-veteran QB Matt Ryan. One Falcons-related web site said it's expected - providing everyone stays healthy - that Jackson will run the ball between 225 and 250 times this year after serving as a major workhorse the past decade for the St. Louis Rams while it's expected Rodgers will get somewhere in the general neighborhood of 75-to-100 carries and naturally that does not count his receptions (he had 53 of 'em a year ago)
Spread Notes - There was plenty of pointspread positives for last year's Falcons beginning with the fact Atlanta covered three-of-four games played against the AFC West and the Birds also registered a 2-0-1 spread log whenever in the underdog role with regular-season outright wins at 3-point fav Philadelphia and at 3-point favorite San Diego going along with the 28-24 loss/push against four-point fav San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game at home. Overall, the 2012 Falcs finished 9-7-2 odds-wise but it must be pointed out that Atlanta started off the season with a neat 6-2 ATS mark. Finally, note that Atlanta was a money-burner in divisional games with a crummy 1-4-1 ATS mark against fellow NFC South foes. Ugh!
SEATTLE (12-6) - The $64,000 question surrounding this year's Seahawks is will they be an offensive powerhouse with the addition of WR Percy Harvin (acquired via trade with Minnesota)?
Keep in mind that Seattle has 11 offensive starters back from last year's playoff team that was one defensive stand away from playing in the NFC Championship Game with QB Russell Wilson already considered a "mainstay" for this attack plus there's RB Marshawn Lynch who is fresh off a career-best 1,590-yard rushing season.
If Lynch stays healthy and gets 20-to-25 carries per game and Wilson mixes in his more-than-occasional runs with sharp strikes to his wide outs, the Seahawks - who scored 58, 50 and 42 points during one three-game stretch last year (versus Arizona, Buffalo and new archrival San Francisco) - could be among the NFL's scoring leaders.
An important personnel note: Seattle's reserve TE Anthony McCoy suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in the off-season and so pay special attention to rookie TE Luke Wilson (Rice) who looked quite athletic in the team's mandatory mini-camp this past spring. Russell Wilson likes throwing to his tight ends in the flat and so Luke Wilson could be a real "fantasy" gem for you folks who like to indulge in such hobbies!
Keep in mind last year the 'Hawks finished third in the NFL in rushing (161.2 yards per game) but only 27th in the league in passing (189.4 ypg) - so Wilson could be flinging it more than you might think to help balance out this 2013 attack.
Spread Notes - The 2012 Seahawks cranked out a 13-5 ATS mark (that's a .722 winning rate) that included a four-game ATS winning streak and another three-game winning streak spreadwise. Note that Seattle rolled up a 7-1 spread log whenever in the underdog role with outright wins against Dallas, Green Bay, Carolina, New England and Chicago and don't forget about that 30-28 loss-but-cover at 3-point favorite Atlanta in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round Game. Did you know the Seahawks went 7-1 vig-wise in all home games with the sole spread setback coming in a 20-13 non-cover win against 11 ½-point dog St. Louis in Week 17 play?
NOTE: Catch our National League Report Card Grades plus more NL Team-by-Team Reports in the next edition of Jim Sez as we focus on the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles.