Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 8:33 AM
It may have been the biggest summertime news in/around the National Football League but as far as the New England Patriots are concerned, "We're going about our business like Aaron Hernandez never existed," one Pats' veteran star was quoted as saying yesterday.
The Hernandez Saga - far from being over and done with as a pair of 2012 murders now are being investigated to go along with the June murder that Hernandez already is allegedly linked to right now - has been the blackest stain of all on a league that's seen more than 30 players get arrested since last year's Super Bowl win by the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers.
Strange how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stayed so mum on the subject, right?
Well, Hernandez very likely is just beginning his days behind bars but the football world goes on and so when New England's stoic head coach Bill Belichick addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon he sent condolences to the victim and his family and then basically made it clear that Hernandez would no longer be a subject in Patriots camp - heck, mega-star QB Tom Brady merely said he has "moved on" from Hernandez and would instead concentrate now on his "great teammates" and that includes new TE Jake Ballard.
The former New York Giant passed his physical exam this past Tuesday and was removed from the team's PUP (Physically Unable to Perform list) and that's key considering current Patriots' star TE Rob Gronkowski was placed on the PUP list earlier in the week and if he's still on it come August 31st than "Gronk" will miss at least the first six weeks of regular-season play.
In case Brady and Company needed to be reminded, last year the Gronkowski and Hernandez combo teamed up for 106 receptions worth 1,273 yards and 16 TDs in regular-season action while Ballard missed all of last season with a torn knee.
In other NFL Training Camp News & Notes ...
Last year's Indianapolis Colts were a major surprise team that made it back to the playoffs with rookie QB Andrew Luck at the helm but the Indy ground game - ranked 22nd in the NFL while averaging a meager 104.4 yards per game - was a sore spot.
The Colts thought they had adequately addressed the issue this past offseason when former Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw was signed as a free agent but the oft-injured back is hurt again and so the AFC South squad placed him on the PUP list as he's recovering slowly from right foot surgery in January.
The Colts are banking on Bradshaw - who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both 2010 and 2012 - to give this offense a little different feel as Indianapolis would like RB Vick Ballard (team-leading 814 yards rushing last season) to combine with the jitterbugging Bradshaw to ease the burden on Luck.
Keep in mind Indianapolis TE Weslye Saunders last week was suspended for the season's first eight regular-season games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs ...
Finally, the Chicago Bears won 10 games a year ago but didn't make it to the post-season and then saw a new general manager (Phil Emery) and a new head coach (Marc Trestman) take control this past off-season.
The new-look Bears also will be without now-retired LB Brian Urlacher and there's something else that's gonna be different:
The Bears plan on having QB Jay Cutler (3,033 yards passing with 19 TDs and 14 INTs in 2012) spread the ball around more after last year WR Brandon Marshall was targeted 192 times - only Detroit WR Calvin Johnson and Indianapolis wide-out Reggie Wayne were targeted more with 204 and 195 targets, respectively.
Marshall finished with 118 catches worth 1,508 yards and 11 TDs en route to a Pro Bowl berth and - despite what you may think - the oft-mouthy pass-catcher welcomes the fact that Trestman and Company plans on a spread-the-wealth attack that will also feature more tosses to RB Matt Forte and lots to TE Martellus Bennett who last year snagged 55 balls for the New York Giants including seven grabs of 20+ yards.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, and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners. Plus, the NFL Preseason is right around the corner with the annual Hall of Fame Game this year between the Miami Dolphins vs. the Dallas Cowboys on tap for Sunday evening , August 4th. Go ahead and pile up the greenbacks while you're kicking back this summer of 2013!
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S KEY OPENERS
Hope you caught our Jim Sez column yesterday when we highlighted who were the favorites to win this year's BCS Championship and we posted the here-and-now odds to win it all ... now we take an early "sneak peek" at a handful of opening-week/weekend key games from an ATS (against the spread) perspective. Folks, we'll have lots more on these and many other games in the week to come and so "keep it tuned" right here to jimhurley.com for all the NCAA Football updates:
Thursday, Aug. 29 ...
NORTH CAROLINA at SOUTH CAROLINA - The SC Gamecocks have strung together four consecutive winning spread seasons and it all adds up to a collective 29-21 ATS mark since the start of the 2009 season.
South Carolina's also a sturdy 8-5 vig-wise in non-SEC action dating back the past three seasons and that includes last year's 27-17 win at 6-point fav Clemson - the only ACC team that Steve Spurrier's club faced in a 2012 campaign that produced 11 SU (straight-up) victories.
On the flip side, North Carolina comes off a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 ATS season last year with the Tar Heels going 0-1 spreadwise as dogs (see 39-34 loss at 3-point fav Louisville) and UNC's just 1-5 spreadwise in its last half-dozen games as point-grabbers.
Saturday, Aug. 31 ...
RICE at TEXAS A&M - The Johnny Manziel Era rolls on with the SEC Aggies laying a monster-sized price here and note that A&M covered five-of-seven games last year whenever laying a twin-digit price tag.
The Heisman Trophy-winning year for Manziel also included the Aggies going a mediocre 3-3 ATS at home with covers against South Carolina State, Arkansas and Missouri to go along with home spread setbacks against Florida, LSU and Sam Houston State.
In all, last year's Aggies finished 8-5 against the odds thus marking the team's best single-season spread mark since an 8-3-1 ATS campaign in 2006.
But how about the other guys?
The Rice Owls actually sported a better winning percentage a year ago than the Manziel-led Aggies - the Rice kids went 8-4-1 ATS for a .667 winning rate as compared to A&M's .615 winning percentage - and note the '12 Owls sported a pair of three-game spread winning streaks.
In all, Rice finished 6-2-1 against the Las Vegas prices last year when placed in the underdog role but dig a little bit deeper and you'll see the Owls went just 16-22-1 ATS as pups the prior four years (2007-2010).
MISS STATE vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (at Houston) - These teams have not clashed since 1999 when host Miss State snagged a 29-11 win and note the series is tied at two wins apiece but spreadmeisters may wish to note that the Okie State Cowboys are a collective 27-12 ATS the past three years (a .692 winning rate) and that includes a heady 9-4 ATS mark against non-Big 12 foes.
Did you also realize that the Pokes are 13-6 spreadwise away from Stillwater the past three years and this Kickoff Classic game will be staged at Reliant Stadium (home of the NFL's Houston Texans)?
Meanwhile, Miss State - which went a sluggish 6-7 versus the vig a year ago - has covered its season-opening game in each of the past three years with spread wins against Jackson State (2012) and Memphis (both 2010 and 2011).
The Bulldogs, however, went 0-4 ATS as underdog sides last year and are an unappealing 3-11 odds-wise as pups since the start of the 2010 campaign and that includes a 31-point loss to Alabama last year and a 27-point loss at Arkansas late in the 2011 season.
VIRGINIA TECH at ALABAMA (at Atlanta) - No surprise that the Crimson Tide has cranked out a .500-or-better spread mark in each of the past five years but did you realize that 'Bama is a collective 41-24 ATS the past five years (a sizzling .631 winning rate) and that includes a 14-7 spread log when playing non-SEC competition?
Note that since Nick Saban came aboard in 2007, the Tide's covered its season-opening on-the-board game all six years in a row including spread winners against Clemson in 2008, Virginia Tech in '09 and Michigan last year.
Meanwhile, note that the V-Tech Hokies are coming off back-to-back miserable spread seasons (3-9-1 in 2011 and 4-9 ATS last year). The Techsters have dropped their season-opening on-the-board game for the past six years and that includes last year's 20-17 non-cover overtime win against 7 ½-point pup Georgia Tech.
GEORGIA at CLEMSON - Strange but true that these two southern powers have not played one another since the 2003 season when 3-point road favorite Georgia crushed Clemson 30-0 in what was the season-opening game for both squads.
It's worth noting that the Clemson Tigers are a wobbly 9-14 versus the vig when playing non-ACC foes the past six years while the Georgia Dawgs are a solid 9-5 spreadwise in away games the past two years.
Wacky spread stat? Georgia has failed to cover four of its last five season-opening games but the SEC crew has covered five of its last seven season-ending games.
THE BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: WHAT "STAR" PITCHERS ARE COSTING FOLKS PLENTY OF LOOT?
The 2013 Major-League Baseball season is now nearly four months old - but did you realize that some of the game's star hurlers have not been money-makers (whether it's their fault or not!)?:
JOSH JOHNSON, Toronto - It's been a "lost year" in more ways than one for this hard-throwing righthander as the Blue Jays are 3-10 in Johnson's starts and one thing you don't want to do is bet Johnson in his night-time games as Toronto's a sickly 1-7 in his eight under-the-light appearances.
JOE BLANTON, Los Angeles Angels - It's hard to believe that the Halos are 4-16 in the 20 starts made this year by this veteran righthander who has pitched to a wobbly 5.66 ERA but hasn't always gotten much run support (see eight runs scored for him in his last three starts).
COLE HAMELS, Philadelphia - It sure seems as if this one-time post-season hero has been digging out of a deep ditch all year long and his here-and-now status includes the Phils going 6-15 in his first 21 starts and that includes a rotten 2-10 record in night games. Hamels actually has been making a little comeback lately as the Phillies have won three of his last four starts - so this is a trend that could be tilting back, stay tuned.
NOTE: Lots of NFL, NCAA Football and MLB News/Notes all week long right here at Jim Sez!