Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, September 30, 2013 at 8:56 AM
IT’S DOLPHINS-SAINTS IN A BATTLE OF UNBEATENS IN THIS NFL WEEK 4 MONDAY NIGHT TILT
PLUS WE ASK (AND ANSWER) SOME KEY QUESTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO SUNDAY’S ACTION IN REGARDS
TO THE DREADFUL FALCONS & TEXANS …THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT:WHY FIRING USC HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN
RIGHT NOW MADE PERFECT SENSE
By Jim Hurley
After the proverbial dust settled on Sunday night, there were still six NFL teams without a loss, including the 4-0 likes of Denver, Kansas City, New England and Seattle along with the 3-0 duo that plays tonight – that’s (of course) Miami at New Orleans.
So, let us not be the first and maybe even not the last to proclaim that when it comes to this hearty NFL Week 4 card, we’re leaving the best for last with this prime-time blast tonight on ESPN!
Okay, so maybe you didn’t consider either the Dolphins or the Saints as your primary Super Bowl picks this year – keep in Mind that Miami entered the current campaign as a 45-1 choice to “win it all”, while the albeit born-again Saints were listed at a more modest 15-to-1.
Still, the fact that these teams arrive inside the Louisiana Superdome this evening without a single blemish on their here-and-now 2013 record is pretty darn cool when you consider Miami is the league’s only team to win back-to-back season-opening road games (at Cleveland and at Indianapolis) while N’Orleans already has banged out a couple of “W’s” against fellow NFC South rivals (see Atlanta and Tampa Bay), and who ever thought the Saints would be holding their opponents to a per-game scoring average of less than 13 ppg?
We’ll dig into the MNF preview in just a moment in today’s Jim Sez plus get you some other news-worthy items from NFL Week 4 but first this key reminder:
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Tonight, it’s …
MIAMI (3-0) at NEW ORLEANS (3-0) – 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here’s a couple of goodies from the stat pack:
The Miami Dolphins last started a season at 3-0 way back in 2002, but they didn’t make the playoffs that year and have made it to the post-season just once since then (see 2008).
Conversely, the New Orleans Saints last started off a year at 3-0 in 2009, and any die-hard Saints fan can tell you what happened that season (see our Spread Notes below).
The bottom line on this under-the-lights bash is that Saints’ QB Drew Brees – who has thrown six TD passes and four INTs thus far – must get some aerial help here from folks other than busy TE Jimmy Graham (19 receptions for 313 yards and three TDs in the last two games alone), while the Dolphins trust QB Ryan Tannehill to spread the wealth between WRs Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline – the latter leads the Fish with 18 catches this season.
If there’s truly an X-factor at play here, it’s the Saints pass rush that’s produced only eight sacks so far (note that Brees has himself been sacked 10 times) and keep an eye on DE Cameron Jordan who has three sacks and probably will require double-teaming by Miami here.
From the "did-you-know" department, all three Saints’ games this year have gone “under” the Las Vegas price tag. Hmmm.
Spread Notes – New Orleans is an amazing 15-4 ATS (against the spread) in all home games since the start of the 2011 season, and that includes covers this year against Atlanta and Arizona. On the flip side, Miami is a cool 3-0 versus the vig this season and the Dolphins are 27-15 ATS away dating back to the start of the 2008 season. Note that the last time these clubs clashed was back in 2009: The Saints snagged a wild 46-34 win as 6 ½-point road favorites to start their Super Bowl-winning season at 6-0 SU (straight-up) and 6-0 ATS … wow!
In other NFL Week 4 News/Notes …
Is it time to push the panic button in both Atlanta and Houston today?
Yes, following last night’s 30-23 win by the New England Patriots in Atlanta, the NBC-TV tag-team duo of Bob Costas and Mike Florio basically piled on both clubs with Costas letting TV viewers know that much of the Georgia Dome already had emptied out by the time the Falcons were blowing it once again with shaky first-and-goal plays, while Florio strongly suggested that his sources believe troubled Houston Texans’ QB Matt Schaub might be out of his starting job after some hellaciously bad play in his team’s still hard-to-explain 23-20 overtime loss to Seattle.
Let’s take ‘em one-by-one here:
The Falcons dropped to 1-3 overall following that prime-time loss to the Pats and – while it’s true we thought Atlanta and Denver would be the Super Bowl matchup in the Meadowlands come early February (and it still might be!) -- the fact of the matter is Mike Smith’s NFC South crew just never delivers in the crunch against “name” teams and last night was just the latest example.
Find whatever flaw you would like – QB Matt Ryan (421 yards passing) was high-and-wide with a number of throws, and we really didn’t care for the body language for much of the night coming from WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Toss into the mix the fact the Falcons remain way too soft on defense – the Pats gained a whopping 7.2 yards per play and converted 7-of-13 third-down plays – and there’s major problems brewing in Hot-lanta even though it’s true the schedule “lets up” with home games against the New York Jets and TB Bucs sandwiching a Week 6 bye.
So, here’s our question that we “teased” in this Jim Sez headline:
Is it time for a change when it comes to the head coach here?
If you really want to know our feelings, we don’t think sixth-year head coach Smith is gonna last the year if this team enters December with a losing record. Just sayin’.
Maybe time for Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank to head to one of his “Home Depots” for some tools that will fix his team!
Meanwhile, the Texans – who are admittedly just a game back of Indianapolis and Tennessee in the AFC South – have their own set of problems, but blowing a 20-3 second-half lead against Seattle on Sunday was a major bummer.
In fact, one pal who’s wagered a bob or two on NFL games for years said this Week 4 setback by the Texans was the worst football loss he could remember in a long, long time.
No sense in regurgitating the whole play-by-play sheet here, but everyone ‘round the Houston area is wondering what the heck Schaub was doing when he threw that ridiculous flare pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Seahawks’ all-world CB Richard Sherman with just less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Schaub – who often never “felt” the pressure of oncoming pass rushers in this tilt – officially has worn out his welcome as the team’s No. 1 signal-caller even though his stats were quite solid here: Schaub completed 31-of-49 passes for 355 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs, but when your team doesn’t score a single point in the third quarter, the fourth quarter and 11-plus minutes into overtime, then you have to take a hit.
So, the $64,000 question is this:
Do the Texans sit Schaub this Sunday Night for this big game in San Francisco – that means T.J. Yates at the controls – or does he get a longer leash despite the late-game meltdown?
Gotta say Schaub (8 TDs and 6 INTs this year) has to stay as numero uno as this third-and-four bonehead pass was his fault but second-guessers (like us) are coming out of the woodwork to ask why not run RB Arian Foster (102 yards rushing) and maybe salt this one away? If you don’t make the first down, punt the football and expect the Wade Phillips-coached defense to handle the Seattle offense.
Hey, pointspread lovers:
NFL Week 4 Betting Favorites exited Sunday’s action at 8-6 ATS, and so that means NFL chalk sides right now are a composite 31-29-2 against the odds for a .517 winning rate.
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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
So, maybe it’s a little bit of karma, right?
The USC Trojans hired Lane Kiffin after a one (year)-and-done deal with the University of Tennessee, and surely the west coast school took more than a few verbal jabs pointed in its general direction for that sneaky move, and so gotta believe Vols fans are having a good laugh now that Kiffin’s been canned at Southern Cal.
Heck, he lasted three years and five games into this current season for USC and never produced a national champion, never even won a single bowl game and yet he irritated the masses in Los Angeles (we didn’t see a whole lot of folks in the crowd at the LA Coliseum two weekends ago in that 17-14 snore-fest non-cover win against Utah State).
Now, following Saturday’s brutal 62-41 loss at 4-point fav Arizona State, Kiffin’s a goner – even with a 3-2 mark this season – and we say AD Pat Haden really had no other choice.
Not only were recruits turning their backs on the Troy Boys the past couple of years, but boring football won’t be tolerated in entertainment-happy Los Angeles and so it was high time to turn the page.
Yes, interim head coach/defensive assistant Ed Orgeron won’t remind anyone of Vince Lombardi – Orgeron’s three years as Ole Miss head coach in the mid-2000s were underwhelming with 3-8, 4-8 and 3-9 seasons with the Rebels – but something had to give and it had to give now and so kiss Kiffin goodbye and make way for the rumor mill as to whom will be the eventual “permanent” head coach.
Usually, we don’t care for in-season change when it comes to college coaches: In this case, we give it our Jim Sez blessing!
So, what’s on deck for USC?
You’ve probably already heard the name of one-time Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio making the rounds (he played at USC a long time ago), and that makes perfect sense but don’t discount a couple of other names such as Miami Hurricanes boss-man Al Golden and current LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
None of the above names would be ready to roll till after their respective seasons are over.