Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 12:54 PM
THE NFL 2015 SKED IS OUT!
PLUS THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT AS WE ZOOM IN ON TONIGHT'S GAMES IN ATLANTA, MEMPHIS & LA
AND OUR LATEST NFL DRAFT EDITION AS WE CHECK OUT RBs AND TEs
So, what grabs you the most about the hot-off-the-presses 2015 NFL schedule?
Heck, Week 1 on its own will be a major blast what with the season-opening Thursday Night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers at the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (haven't been able to call 'em that in 10 years!) plus some great Sunday afternoon action featuring the likes of Baltimore at Denver, Green Bay at Chicago and New Orleans at Arizona plus the Sunday Night bash pairing the New York Giants at the Dallas Cowboys - and the usual Monday Night Football twin-bill should be a doozy too (see Philadelphia at Atlanta and Minnesota at San Francisco).
But dig deeper and here's some of what sticks out for us here at Jim Sez:
There's a slew of marquee matchup non-divisional games on the early-season docket from Seattle at Green Bay in the Week 2 Sunday Night affair; Chicago at Seattle in Week 3; and Dallas at New Orleans in the Sunday Night game in Week 4 and the Thanksgiving Day/Night rundown ain't bad either with Philly at Detroit, Carolina at Dallas and the prime-time game between Chicago at Green Bay when former Packers' icon QB Brett Favre gets his uniform #4 retired - we know, we know ... you can't wait!
The seemingly annual Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady showdown - a/k/a Denver versus New England - is the centerpiece game in Week 12 (yes, also an NBC Sunday Nighter) and we remind y'all that this year the interconference games feature the NFC East versus the AFC East; the NFC North versus the AFC West; the NFC South versus the AFC South; and the NFC West versus the AFC North so get ready for the likes of San Francisco at Pittsburgh in Week 2 and New England at Dallas in Week 5 and New Orleans at Indianapolis in Week 7, just to name a few interesting interconference tilts.
THE NBA PLAYOFFS
Okay, so there's a trio of Game #2 tilts on this Wednesday playoff card and so let's examine what to watch:
#8 BROOKLYN at #1 ATLANTA - 7 p.m. ET, NBA Network; Hawks lead series 1-0
You want balance?
The East's top-seeded Atlanta Hawks gave it to you in Game 1 as five different players scored in double figures en route to the 99-92 non-cover win against 11.5-point underdog Brooklyn.
You want missed shots?
Well, the aforementioned Nets gave you plenty of that in last Sunday's loss - Lionel Hollins' crew missed 15-of-20 three-point shots and (we were watching!) many of them were wide-open looks at the hoop as the combo of Joe Johnson and reserve Bojan Bogdanovic went 1-of-11 from beyond the stripe and so it doesn't take a proverbial rocket scientist to tell you that if the Nets don't hit those open 3's and don't get the ball into the hands of big man Brook Lopez (6-of-7 FG makes in Game 1) more often than newly-named NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer will be bringing him Hawks to Brooklyn this weekend with a 2-0 series lead.
One word on Atlanta here: We'd like to see PG Jeff Teague be a better distributor after his 17-point, 3-assist, 4-turnover tilt in Game 1.
#4 PORTLAND at #5 MEMPHIS - 8 p.m. ET, TNT; Grizzlies lead series 1-0
It's funny how the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure" pertains to the here-and-now Memphis Grizzlies: After all, backup PG Beno Udrih was discarded by the woeful New York Knicks about a year ago and yet here was the veteran lefty pouring in 20 points for Memphis in last Sunday's rocking-chair 100-86 win/cover against 5.5-point underdog Portland - no wonder Grizz F Zack Randolph later exclaimed Udrih got the "game ball" and the real key there is rehabbing PG Mike Conley (foot) only had to play 24 minutes in that route as he eased his way back into the lineup after missing the season's final four games.
If Conley (16 points in Game 1) indeed "got his legs" in that one than the visiting Trail Blazers could be in worse trouble than they imagined (and note the Las Vegas oddsmakers have put Memphis as a 6 or 6.5-point fav here, thus giving the indication that Portland might well be over its head here).
#6 SAN ANTONIO at #3 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - approximately 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT; Clippers lead series 1-0
If you sort through all the post-game clutter of the Clippers' 107-92 win/cover as 1.5-point betting favorites in Game 1, then you should know one thing:
While much was made of the high-flying dunks of Blake Griffin (see 26 points and 12 rebounds) and the dazzling moves of PG Chris Paul (game-high 32 points with 7 rebs and 6 assists) the real "story" here from Game 1 was the Spurs shot so poorly from both the floor (34-of-93 for 36.6 percent and just 14-of-26 from the free-throw line for 53.8 percent) and there's gotta be some concern involving the ankle of PG Tony Parker who drained just 4-of-11 FGs en route to a very silent 10-point game. If you're looking for a potential X-factor for the Spurs here in Game 2 - the numbers guys/gals have the Clips favored by 1.5 points again at press time - then check out the San Antonio bench that managed to hit just 15-of-44 FG tries with Boris Diaw a major dud (see 2-of-12 FG shooting).
Could the defending champs and five-time NBA champs be on the ropes after this one? Stay tuned.
NFL DRAFT REPORT
Let's check out the top running backs and then the top tight ends as we inch closer to the April 30th NFL Draft in Chicago:
THE RUNNING BACKS
TODD GURLEY, Georgia - Most draft boards have this 6-foot-1, 222-pounder from Tarboro (NC) as a top 15 pick despite the injuries that absolutely wrecked his 2014 college campaign. Gurley - who suffered a torn ACL last November - did impress scouts with the built-back strength in his knee at recent workouts but there remains concerns about his durability and stamina. Gut feeling is San Francisco (at #15) either will wait for Gurley to drop to the Niners or possibly move up a couple of slots to ensure the choice.
MELVIN GORDON, Wisconsin - One year after rushing for a mind-numbing 2,587 yards including the record-for-a-moment 408-yard game) this 6-foot-1, 215-pound back from Kenosha (WI) figures to land somewhere inside the draft's top 18-to-20 picks thanks to his dazzling 4.4 40-yard time and ability to bust long gainers once he's past the first line of defense. San Diego at #17 could be a destination unless this pick is part of a much-hyped deal involving Chargers' QB Philip Rivers.
JAY AJAYI. Boise State - This physical back only stands at 6-feet, 222 pounds but he isn't afraid to mix it up between the tackles and showed major durability with 347 carries (for 1,823 yards rushing) last year while building up his stock. A likely early-second selection who could be a good fit in Minnesota if the post-Adrian Peterson is underway.
AMEER ABDULLAH, Nebraska - Great college back who rushed for 4,588 yards (second-best in Nebraska history to one-time Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier and his 4,780 yards) but his 5-foot-9, 205-pound frame is gonna cost him at draft time and so expect this 'Husker star to go late in Round II where champion New England could be a neat fit.
DUKE JOHNSON, Miami - Naturally, there's some questions about this thrill-a-minute RB who stands just 5-feet-9 and suffered a serious ankle injury in 2013. Some NFL folks believe he's not physical enough to qualify as an every down back but he might be a nice puzzle piece late in Round II for a team such as Denver or Green Bay.
THE TIGHT ENDS
MAXX WILLIAMS, Minnesota - This 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is a real wrecking ball type who last year scored eight touchdowns for the offensively-challenged Golden Gophers and could be a late Round I steal ... perhaps he's bound to New Orleans with that #31 overall pick acquired from Seattle for TE Jimmie Graham?
DEVIN FUNCHESS, Michigan - Okay, so many scouts consider this 6-foot-4, 233-pounder to be a hybrid WR/TE and the majority opinion is that he'll be a better fit as a wide-out but we shall include Funchess as a TE for our Jim Sez study based on the fact if he adds 20 pounds to his frame he might be more effective at the line. Note Funchess snared a team-best 62 receptions for the maize-and-blue last year and could wind up being a solid "system" player on this next level.
CLIVE WALFORD, Miami - A 6-foot-4, 252-pounder who provides a large target with real red-zone value after having scored 14 TDs at "The U". Some folks believe he's a "reliable" pass-catcher while others think he drops too many passes and thus expect a late second-round/early third-round destination for this Belle Glade (FL) native.
Note: Catch more NBA Playoff, MLB and NFL Draft goodies in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.