Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Has the NFL gone from a here-today, gonzo-tomorrow league?
Keep in mind the 12 teams that comprised last year's post-season - that's Atlanta, Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington in the NFC along with Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis and New England in the AFC -- will enter this year's Week 4 schedule with a composite won/loss mark of only 20 wins and 16 losses... that's a rather mediocre .555 winning rate that's clearly hyped by the identical 3-and-oh records of both the Seahawks and the Broncos.
In fact, if the NFL season happened to end today, five of the six teams that made it to the playoffs last year from the NFC would be on the sidelines this time around. Really.
Okay, so we know that we're not even quite one-quarter way through this 2013 season but you get the point: In the ever-changing world of the NFL, success is truly fleeting and that's no more evident than in the first game up on this NFL Week 4 card - the San Francisco 49ers (1-2) are in a major disarray state these days and yet already face what you could call a must-win game here.
Okay, the defending NFC champions could lose come Thursday Night in St. Loo (see Jim Sez preview below) and still have plenty of time to regroup - with or without rehabbing OLB Aldon Smith - but gotta believe the last thing Niners' head coach Jim Harbaugh had in mind prior to the start of this season was that his club could be 1-3 SU (straight-up) after four games and looking up from the basement of the NFC West.
Meanwhile, in keeping with our season-long pointspread stats, here's what the Favorites vs. Underdogs and Overs vs. Unders look like the first three weeks of NFL play:
On Thursday Night, it's...
SAN FRANCISCO (1-2) at ST. LOUIS (1-2) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Okay, so the 49ers' woes have been well-documented by the mass media the past 48-to-72 hours but what can we actually expect here in this key divisional game? For starters, San Fran has been in a self-destructive mode as its offense has committed seven turnovers the past two games - that's in 26- and 20-point losses to Seattle and Indianapolis, respectively -- while overall SF has 18 penalties in these two games and so Harbaugh's gang must "clean up its act" and gut feeling is RB Frank Gore (just 41 carries in the team's first three games) will go back to being a major workhorse, so look for a minimum of 25 carries here from Gore who was unhappy with his lack of totes last week.
Naturally, the weight of the world also appears to be on the shoulders of QB Colin Kaepernick who threw for 412 yards in that season-opening 34-28 win/cover against Green Bay but he's been a bust ever since (see just 13-of-27 passing for 150 yards with one pick last week against the Colts).
Will Kaepernick grow restless and run the ball more in the team's read-option attack... or will he look to bring WR Anquan Boldin back into the mix?
Keep in mind Boldin famously snagged 13 receptions in Week 1 against the Pack and has just six total catches the past two weeks.
On the flip side, the Rams have their own problems these days as St. Loo's defense surrendered a whopping 193 yards rushing (175 of 'em by RB DeMarco Murray) in that lopsided 31-7 loss in Dallas last Sunday and did you realize that QB Sam Bradford was sacked six times by the 'Boys after not getting sacked once in four games in a row while dating back to last season?
The Niners will be without pass-rushing star Smith who tries to get his out-of-control life in order but note San Fran only has seven sacks so far this year and the aforementioned Smith has 3 ½ of them... hmmm.
Spread Notes - San Francisco has failed to cover five of the last six head-to-head showdowns against St. Louis including last year's Rams' spread sweep: A 24-24 overtime tie as 13-point road dogs back in a Week 10 game followed by St. Loo's 16-13 upset win (again in OT) as 7-point home pups in Week 13. The 49ers are a composite 12-15-1 ATS (against the spread) away the past three-plus seasons while the Rams are winless in three pointspread tries this year (versus Arizona, Atlanta and Dallas).
My handicappers and bloggers will continue to torch Las Vegas and the off-shore books with loads of NFL and NCAA Football winners this week and that includes the Side & Totals winners on the San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams game to kick off NFL Week 4 and it's Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech in college ball, so don't miss a beat! Get both games right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 after 1 p.m. ET on week days and any time after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Plus get all our down-the-stretch Major-League Baseball winners too! The MLB Playoffs are just days away now!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
On Thursday Night, it's...
VIRGINIA TECH (3-1, 0-0 ACC) at GEORGIA TECH (3-0, 2-0 ACC) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Flip the calendar back to Labor Day evening (Sept. 3rd) a year ago and the host V-Tech Hokies were the 7 ½-point home favorites and they barely escaped with a 20-17 overtime win against Georgia Tech.
Now, some 400-or-so days later, it's Georgia Tech that's right now the 7 ½-point home favorite in this under-the-lights tilt in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the two-fold question is this: Should G-Tech now be considered an elite team in this league; and has Virginia Tech truly taken a step or two backwards?
Consider that Georgia Tech's outscored its three foes so far this year (that's Elon, Duke and North Carolina) by a combined 136-to-34 while Virginia Tech's really just eked out recent wins against East Carolina and Marshall - the latter a three-OT affair that the Jim Hurley Network won plus the 8 ½-point price tag! - and you get the two-ships-passing-in-the-night sense here, right?
If Frank Beamer's club has major designs on "stealing" this conference clash, then we've got to see more special teams magic:
Hey, last week there was a blocked punt against Marshall but those TV announcers were absolutely correct in saying the "Beamerball" special teams goodies we all grew used to in the 1980s and 1990s had all but disappeared.
Block a punt or a field goal here and V-Tech likely will have a shot to win (or at least cover) late in this one.
And don't forget that Georgia Tech owns the country's fourth-best ground game (averaging 345.3 yards per game) with QB Vad Lee (52 carries) the busiest of the ball-carriers but keep a close eye here on Tech RB David Sims who rushed the ball 17 times for 99 yards and two TDs in that nifty 28-20 come-from-behind win/cover against 7-point pup North Carolina last weekend.
Spread Notes - Georgia Tech's covered all three of its games so far this 2013 season and the Yellow Jackets are 8-1 versus the vig overall while dating back to last season. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is 0-3-1 against the odds this season including spread setbacks versus Alabama, East Carolina and Marshall. The Hokies are a collective 4-12-1 ATS away since the start of the 2011 season.
In other College Football News & Notes...
Hey, we'll have a batch of quick-hitter NCAA Football previews/forecasts in tomorrow's jam-packed edition of Jim Sez but remember that there are four head-to-head matchups of Top 25 teams including...
#1 Alabama hosts #21 Ole Miss, #4 Ohio State will play host to #23 Wisconsin, #6 LSU is at #9 Georgia and #14 Oklahoma is at #22 Notre Dame and so there could be some major tossin'-and-turnin' in this week's polls.
One Top 25 team that must be careful of "upset alert" is #12 South Carolina as the Gamecocks head into Orlando for a tussle with an ultra-physical and veteran UCF Knights team.
The Central Florida gang really has not played a marquee home game since 2009 when Miami went in there and routed George O'Leary's club 27-7. If UCF - a 7 ½-point underdog at this moment - can swipe this game against Steve Spurrier and Company then you can expect to see the Knights in next week's Top 25 (and with all eyes then shifting to an Oct. 18th game at Louisville)...
Finally, so what "name teams" really cannot afford to lose this weekend?
Our very short list includes #16 Washington - a 9-point home fav against Pac-12 rival Arizona - as the host Huskies (3-0) play back-to-back games at Stanford and then home to Oregon the following two weekends and so Steve Sarkisian's crew must keep its eyes on the prize here or a three-game losing streak could sabotage this promising season.
And aforementioned North Carolina (1-2) - posted right now as an 11 ½-point home favorite against East Carolina - has to pull it all together or else this season could spiral out of control.
Did you know the UNC Tar Heels rank 106th nationally - that's out of 125 FBS teams - in rush defense while yielding 237 yards a game?
Maybe second-year head coach Larry Fedora is not the "right fit" here... stay tuned.