Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
THERE’S MORE NFL PRESEASON WEEK 3 PREVIEWS AS WE TACKLE A SLEW OF WEEKEND GAMES…
PLUS WE WRAP UP OUR COLLEGE GRIDIRON REPORTS
WITH A LOOK AT THE MOUNTAIN WEST & SUN BELT
By Jim Hurley
The NFL Preseason Week 3 games—those so-called “dress rehearsal” games—wrap up on Saturday/Sunday with 10 games in all…
And we’re gonna get you our Jim Sez quick-hitter previews for half of ‘em in just a moment plus there’s College Football goodies comin’ your way too but first this key reminder as we draw ever-so-close to the start of the regular season:
The 2014 NFL Preseason continues to rock-n-roll on all this weekend with Week 3 action on Friday Night with Five (5) games including the CBS bash between the Oakland Raiders at the Green Bay Packers and there’s also Chicago at Seattle and lots more.
Plus there are Eight (8) NFL Preseason games on Saturday featuring the CBS showdown between New Orleans at Indianapolis and Washington at Baltimore -- then the Preseason Week 3 games finally are capped off on Sunday with a pair of tilts: San Diego at San Francisco on Fox at 4 p.m. ET and Cincinnati at Arizona on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.
As you well know, the College Football 2014 campaign swings into high gear with a full week/weekend card scheduled for Thursday, August 28th right through Labor Day—that’s Monday, September 1st.
You definitely want to be in the winner’s circle for all the big opening-week tilts with the college games as Texas A&M battles South Carolina on Thursday, Aug. 28, it’s BYU at UConn among other key tilts on Friday, Aug. 29th and a jam-packed Labor Day weekend card features Clemson-Georgia on Saturday, Aug. 30th and Miami at Louisville on Monday, Sept. 1.
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NFL PRESEASON WEEK 3
On Saturday, it’s…
DALLAS (0-2) at MIAMI (1-1)—7 p.m. ET
Okay, Cowboys fans, you can go ahead and feel a bit better about things ‘cause QB Tony Romo will play here in this exhibition game in south Florida.
Romo—who has not practiced on back-to-back days at any point this summer following off-season back surgery—will probably play a couple of series here against a Dolphins’ defense that will be without S Walt Aikens (hand) and word is the rookie defensive back likely won’t be ready for the start of the regular season.
One thing Miami would like to see is improvement here in the running game—the rebuilt offensive line in the post-BullyGate Era has not fared well so far this summer but the running backs themselves appear to be a major part of the problem as last week Miami rushed the ball 26 times for 46 yards in a 20-14 win at 2 ½-point favorite Tampa Bay and note veteran RB Lamar Miller rushed for three yards on three carries.
WASHINGTON (2-0) at BALTIMORE (2-0)—7:30 p.m. ET
Well, the Beltway Battle pits a pair of unbeaten teams this summer (for what that’s worth!) and it’s interesting to see this change of philosophy on the Ravens’ side where a run-first mentality has taken hold under first-year offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Note that Baltimore RBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce—both of whom were downright awful a year ago—have shed some pounds and have shown more explosiveness hitting the holes and note the AFC North crew leads all NFL teams with 194 total rushing yards through the first two weeks of play.
Meanwhile, Washington would like to see more production here from third-year RB Alfred Morris who rushed for only 29 yards on 11 carries in last Monday Night’s 24-23 non-cover win against Cleveland.
NEW ORLEANS (2-0) at INDIANAPOLIS (0-2)—8 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe you want to soak in the following statement:
The New Orleans Saints—who last season ranked 25th in the NFL while averaging just 92.1 yards rushing per game—may have an embarrassment of riches at RB this year.
Consider that veteran RB Pierre Thomas is gearing up his game more as a pass protector and pass-catcher coming out of the backfield while both RBs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson could be sharing up to 30-plus carries a game.
Here we’ll expect the Saints to grind it out in the rush game while Saints’ QB Drew Brees gets some game time after sitting out his team’s first two Preseason tilts with an oblique injury.
The Colts, on the other hand, need to see something here from RB Trent Richardson, who has rushed the ball for a putrid 2.4 yards-per-carry average through the first two preseason games against the NY Jets and the NY Giants.
You might have seen the quote this past week of Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson who said Richardson needs to “answer the bell” here or else oft-injured RB Ahmad Bradshaw could soon be stealing away a bunch of carries.
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On Sunday, it’s…
SAN DIEGO (1-1) at SAN FRANCISCO (0-2)—4 p.m. ET, Fox
Now that San Fran 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has “explained” his foot injury from a year ago that hampered his production, the $64,000 question is when exactly does this Niner offense show up?
So far through the first two games of this 2014 preseason, the NFC West crew has registered a grand total of three points and in last Sunday’s 34-0 home loss against 3 ½-point underdog Denver, the Niners averaged only 3.9 yards per play and the aforementioned Kaepernick completed 5-of-9 passes for only 39 yards.
CINCINNATI (0-2) at ARIZONA (1-1)—8 p.m. ET, NBC
No doubt that the season-ending ACL injury suffered earlier this week by Arizona Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett has forced this NFC West squad to scramble for bodies along the D-line and we should see some playing time here from new signees Isaac Sopoaga and Ryan McBean—note the latter has not played in a regular-season game since 2011.
Cincinnati’s priority in this game is to jump-start a ground game that rushed for only 87 yards on 24 carries in last weekend’s 25-17 loss to the Jets. The Bengals’ most productive ball carrier in that tilt was RB Cedric Peerman (34 yards on 7 carries/that’s 4.9 yards a pop) but Cincy would like to see more from second-year Gio Bernard, who gained just 22 yards on seven carries last week versus the J-E-T-S.
THE COLLEGE GRIDIRON REPORT
Let’s go ahead and cap off our conference-by-conference look at the FBS leagues with a look at the Mountain West and the Sun Belt Conferences:
The MWC said bye-bye to stat-sheet stuffing QBs Derek Carr (Fresno State) and David Fales (San Jose State) and this year the “hot” slinger in this league figures to be Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, who threw for 3,696 yards last year and led the Rams to a wild 48-45 comeback win against Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.
If Grayson (23 TDs a year ago) gets the green light to throw it plenty this year, Colorado State could bring down the FBS likes of archrival Colorado right out of the proverbial starting gate (see Aug. 29th).
If there’s one defensive player to watch in this year’s Mountain West Conference, it’s Fresno State FS Derron Smith, who is considered a sure-shot NFL player who shows great instinct and that always great “nose for the ball”.
Don’t be shocked if it’s Grayson versus Smith and a Colorado State vs. Fresno State showdown in this year’s MWC Championship Game.
You need a compass to find everyone on the map in this 11-team league that nowadays includes the likes of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.
The odds-on favorite to win this year’s Sun Belt is the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns who come off back-to-back-to-back 9-4 SU (straight-up) seasons and note consecutive bowl wins against San Diego State, East Carolina and Tulane.
Still, gotta point out that Louisiana is just a composite 12-13 versus the vig the past two years and so the good folks in Las Vegas seemingly have “caught up” to the Cajuns.
NOTE: Lots of NFL and NCAA Football coverage/previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.