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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

So, the National Football League regular season is now less than two weeks away (see Baltimore at Denver on the night of Thursday, September 5) and yet you gotta admit there's a whole lot of "mystery" teams out there: Will the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens be better than the "experts" think after all their personnel changes on defense?

Remember the good folks in Las Vegas have the Ravens' wins total at just 8 ½ games at the current time. Hmmm.

Too light ... or just right?

Will the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers be back for another crack at winning it all come February?

Keep in mind no Super Bowl loser has made it back to the "big game" since the Buffalo Bills did so way back in the early 1990s.

The Las Vegas number-crunchers have the Niners at 11 ½ wins this year.

But are they even the best team in that NFC West?

And what to make of last year's .500 teams -- the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys?

Are the arrows "pointing up" for these proud franchises or are they headed for another less-than-stellar season ahead?

Ahh, we begin to get the answers soon enough but right now there's some more NFL Preseason Week 3 games to examine but first this key reminder ...

Jim Hurley and his veteran Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to roll out all the summertime winners with NFL Preseason Week 3 Sides & Totals plays through this weekend. There's 10 games on this Saturday menu including St. Louis at Denver on CBS along with Cincinnati at Dallas, Cleveland at Indianapolis and the annual Big Apple battle between the New York Jets vs. the New York Giants - and then there's another pair of tilts on Sunday including matinee action between New Orleans at Houston and then it's Minnesota at San Francisco on NBC in prime time - so make sure you're part of all the winning ways! Plus cash in with loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too as we've been banging out lots of "W's" in recent weeks as we head to the home stretch of this 2013 MLB season. 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 NFL and MLB action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday Baseball games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Football/Baseball Winners.

NFL PRESEASON WEEK 3 PREVIEWS/NEWS/NOTES
On Sunday, it's ...

NEW ORLEANS (2-0) at HOUSTON (2-0) - 4 p.m. ET, Fox
Everyone in the "Space City" is keeping fingers crossed that star RB Arian Foster will be A-OK to handle a major work load once again this season and the good news coming down the pike on Friday was that Foster (calf and back injuries this summer) looked good in a team practice session - his first since coming off the PUP list.

Okay, so maybe Foster won't get 20-or-so touches in the early portion of regular-season play but - for now - the plan is for him to share carries with RB Ben Tate although the latter likely will see only limited action here so as to keep 'em fresh for that Week One prime-time tilt in San Diego.
 In this home game, Houston QB Matt Schaub is hoping he can gain further rapport with rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins who might get clearance to play here after suffering a concussion in last Saturday's rough-and-tumble 24-17 win/cover against Miami.

On the flip side, the visiting N'Orleans Saints - who've already scored preseason home wins against Kansas City and Oakland (not exactly a couple of stellar teams, you know!) - would like to spread the wealth in the passing game here and so that means expect more tosses in the direction of WR Lance Moore who was targeted just once (a 14-yard completion) in that aforementioned 28-20 win/cover against the Raiders. No WR Marques Colston here for the Saints as he continues to re-hab a foot injury that will keep him out till the regular season opener.

MINNESOTA (0-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (1-1) - 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Note that the Las Vegas price tag on this preseason bash dropped two points a couple of days ago - it went from the 49ers favored by 5 to San Fran favored by just 3 points - and one reason for the price drop is the Niners will play brand-new QB Seneca Wallace for a chunk of time - and keep in mind Wallace just signed on the dotted line after getting released earlier in the week by New Orleans.

So, San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh - never shy about being an out-of-the-box thinker -- says Wallace will get tossed right into the frying pan here while some combination of Colt McCoy, Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels (South Florida) will share plenty of snaps while starting QB Colin Kaepernick is pretty much kept under wraps.

Two quick-hitter notes on the Vikings here:

Minnesota mega-star RB Adrian Peterson will get a few first-half handoffs here in his first preseason action since 2011 (the gut feeling is Minny won't make him run it more than three or four times - tops) while Vikes' QB Christian Ponder may stay in beyond the first half while trying to "work out the kinks" with veteran WR Greg Jennings and rookie wide-out Cordarrelle Patterson. Note that Jennings and Patterson were targeted just three times apiece in last week's 20-16 loss at 4-point fav Buffalo.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: HERE'S THE REAL "HOT SEAT" COACHES

Let's face it: College Football head coaches - now more than ever before - face a "win-now" mandate and it doesn't matter if you need a year, two years or five years to rebuild a program as university presidents want results immediately ... if not sooner!

So, you could say that there are 124 (out of 125) FBS head coaches facing the heat this year - hey, Alabama's Nick Saban could lose all his games and he ain't get the axe! - but for realistic purposes we've come up with a handful of head coaches that better win games, cash a bowl check and/or maybe even need to win their respective conference/league or this is gonna be their swan song season.

Roll call!

PAUL PASQUALONI, Connecticut - It's Year 3 in the Pasqualoni Era and so far the Nutmeg State guys only have a 10-14 SU (straight-up) mark to show for two years on the job and don't forget UConn is just 8-12-3 ATS (against the spread) during this time frame. The defensive-minded Pasqualoni has brought zero buzz into this program and there's already whispers in/around Storrs that "new blood" is needed with administration folks already said to be eyeing some young head coaches not from these parts. Gut feeling is Pasqualoni must at least win six games ... or else.

TIM BECKMAN, Illinois - Last year's shaky 2-10 SU debut (and 3-9 versus the vig) put this former Toledo boss in the cross-hairs and already the Big 10 coaches figure the Illini will finish either fifth or sixth (that's dead-last) in the Leaders Division and an offense that last year scored more than 24 points just once - a so-what 44-0 win against someone named Charleston Southern - is facing major heat to produce. The team's new offensive coordinator is Beckman's former Mid-American Conference buddy/former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit - but is he really the answer to saving Beckman's hide?

RANDY EDSALL, Maryland - It's hard to believe that this "marriage" between the once-successful head coach/program-builder at UConn and this ACC school has been such an utter disaster but the facts are the facts: Maryland's gone 2-10 and 4-9 SU in Edsall's two years in College Park and the Terrapin fans have been driven away in droves. Gotta believe the only way Edsall gets a "stay of execution" is if Maryland gets to a bowl game this year and there are 35 of them on the docket, so we say that's a fair deal.

KYLE WHITTINGHAM, Utah -- Wait a second... isn't this the guy who coached up the Utes to a 31-17 Sugar Bowl win against Alabama back in the 2008 season? It sure is but Whittingham - now entering his ninth year on the job - has found the road treacherous inside the Pac-12 these past two years with Utah a collective 13-12 SU overall and 7-11 SU in league action since the start of the 2011 and so there's rumblings that he's now in over his head while coaching in one of the BCS leagues and a schedule that includes Pac-12 road games at Arizona, USC and Oregon could help sink his ship in '13. Hey, better beat Utah State on Thursday night (the Utes are only a 3-point home favorite) or the Salt Lake City natives will be banging the drum!

NOTE: Catch more NFL News/Notes and NCAA Football Previews too all next week right here at Jim Sez.

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