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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM



Football season’s here and so let’s keep up our NFL Preseason Week 1 coverage with quick-hitter previews of the Six (6) games on the Friday night docket.

Don’t forget there’s four more games on Saturday— including Pittsburgh at the New York Giants and Green Bay at Tennessee—and we’ll have something to say about all of ‘em in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez:

On Friday night, it’s…

The new stars of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series sure were feisty in their first few days of camp as the Atlanta Falcons seemingly spent more time slugging one another in the facemasks than blocking/tackling… maybe Mike Smith’s crew will play with an edge this year and we’ll see if there’s some fireworks here inside the Georgia Dome where WR Julio Jones could sit it out after coming off foot surgery.

On the flip side, the new-look Dolphins will be taking a long, hard look at this reshuffled offensive line minus Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito (remember them?) and it’s possible here that second-string QB Matt Moore won’t play because of a tender throwing shoulder and so look for major minutes for Pat Devlin behind starter Ryan Tannehill.

One of the grand notions in NFL Preseason Handicapping is that teams with a game tucked under their belt (see the Bills) have a distinct advantage over ones that have yet to play a game (see the Panthers) but you see in the Las Vegas price tag that Buffalo’s a 1½-point road favorite for this clash and so where’s the value?

No doubt Buffalo is not gonna pound RB C.J. Spiller into the ground in the preseason while talks swirl that he might be traded and so look for lots of totes by new acquisition RB Bryce Brown who had seven carries worth 40 yards in last Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the 3½-point underdog New York Giants in the NFL’s Annual Hall of Fame Game.

It’s another new era in Bucs football as Lovie Smith has taken over the reign after the failed Greg Schiano “experiment” and one thing the former Chicago Bears head coach would like to do here is immediately shore up a defense that last year ranked 17th overall and 17th versus the pass (allowing 237.9 yards per game).

Smith is keeping fingers crossed that CB Alterraun Verner (hamstring) will be green-lighted for this clash (don ‘t necessarily count on that happening) and remember the secondary also is dealing with the after-effects of right knee surgery on S Mark Barron.

Meanwhile, earlier this week Jacksonville released its depth chart and rookie WR Marqise Lee (USC) was listed as a starter opposite WR Cecil Shorts although the latter has been sidelined lately with a hamstring injury.

Now here’s an Important Note…

Folks, Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers want to welcome you to the start of the 2014 Football Season.

It all began with Sunday’s annual Hall of Fame Game between the Giants versus the Bills but remember now there’s another four weeks of money-making NFL Preseason Games that get revved up beginning tonight with six games on the docket plus the College Football campaign swings into high gear later in the month with a full weekend card scheduled for Thursday, August 28th through Monday, September 1st.

Also, take note that America’s #1 Handicapper continues to bang out lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online at or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners and get all the Football & Baseball winners … can’t beat that, right?

The NFL Preseason, the start of the College Football year and Baseball action too—always a major money-making time of the year for Jim Hurley's Network®!

In other NFL Preseason Week 1 games on Friday, it’s…

New Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer— the long-time defensive whiz of the Cincinnati Bengals — has a whole lot of culture-changing to do with this NFC North crew that last year went 5-10-1 SU (straight-up) and failed to make the playoffs for the second time in three years.

The Vikes— who allowed 30-plus points on eight different occasions back in 2013— are looking at a slew of new faces on defense this season including OLB Anthony Barr (UCLA) who was the ninth overall pick in last May’s draft.

Meanwhile, no RB Adrian Peterson here for Minny as he will be held out of all preseason action and, in fact, A.D. hasn’t played a preseason game since 2011.

Here’s something worth asking:

Will the Chicago Bears take this summer’s preseason games more “seriously” after going a downtrodden 4-10-2 ATS (against the spread) last year?

Maybe second-year head coach Marc Trestman’s club has a bit of urgency to show something here but TE Martellus Bennett won’t be part of this game plan after getting suspended earlier in the week for a training camp fight with rookie CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech).

Later on, Bennett told the media he is one of the “most violent people on the field” but clearly Trestman— who cancelled the rest of that day’s practice after the fight— wasn’t a happy camper.

One thing to watch for here with the Eagles is the fight for playing time at wide receivers now that DeSean Jackson is gone off to the Washington Redskins— WR Jeremy Maclin (who is already hurt) has been suffering through minor leg soreness lately and right now the team’s depth chart lists jack-of-all-trades WR Brad Smith ahead of rookie Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) as the team’s No. 3 receiver.

Note veteran Riley Cooper right now is listed opposite Maclin as the team’s starters at wide out.

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NEW ORLEANS at ST. LOUIS— 8 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Get ready for a whole slew of Michael Sam coverage— but we’ll choose to concentrate more on the St. Louis Rams’ wide receiving cast that includes “changed man” WR Kenny Britt who has played with an explosiveness in camp thus far after a couple of tough years in Tennessee.

Right now the Rams list Britt and second-year pro Tavon Austin as the starting wide-outs with Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey listed as the second-stringers.

Note that the visiting Saints— a 3-point underdog here at press time— want to get a long look at rookie WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), who has been the star of the team’s camp thus far but don’t expect QB Drew Brees here as he’s recovering from a strained left oblique that’s recently kept him from practicing— for what it’s worth, Saints’ head coach Sean Payton is calling Brees “day-to-day”.

You tell us …

Is there a team in the National League and a team in the American League that’s been “lying in the weeds” and ready to make a run for a post-season berth?
Maybe you have your thoughts on the matter but today we’ll weigh in and give you a team in each league that could well come alive in these final 50-or-so games of this 2014 season…

In the NL, watch for the…
MIAMI MARLINS (55-57)— Gotta hand it to the Fish who appeared dead in the water back in mid-May when it was announced ace RHP Jose Fernandez would be gone for the year with Tommy John surgery but instead of feeling self-pity the Marlins have played near-.500 ball and they entered play on Wednesday just 5½ games back of enigmatic Washington in the NL East and also 5½ games back of San Francisco for the second wild card berth in the senior circuit.

Consider that Miami has one of the game’s great sluggers in RF Giancarlo Stanton (26 HR and 74 RBI) and he’s quite capable of carrying an offense for weeks at a time and then remember that Pittsburgh’s hurting without CF Andrew McCutchen and the likes of Atlanta and Cincinnati are staggering along these days and you could see the Fish slip through to a post-season berth even if they play only .550-type ball.

In the AL, keep an eye on the…
CHICAGO WHITE SOX (55-59)— Okay, so things got so bad for the Pale Hose the other day that they allowed veteran slugger Adam Dunn to pitch an inning (and not very well at that!) but consider that Robin Ventura’s team has a legit ace in LHP Chris Sale (10-1, 2.09 ERA heading into yesterday’s game against Texas) and an offensive monster in rookie Jose Abreu (31 HR and 86 RBI) and those centerpiece guys often can lift a team on their collective shoulders.
Plus OF Adam Eaton is a solid on-base guy who plays great defense in centerfield and he’s quite capable of saving this staff a batch of runs— might the White Sox get on a hot streak in August and chew into that five-game deficit behind Toronto for the league’s second wild card berth? Stay tuned.
The summer ain’t shot just yet on the South Side of Chitown!

NOTE: More NFL Preseason Week 1 game previews in the next edition of Jim Sez!

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