Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, August 6, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE NFL PRESEASON REPORT –
WHAT TEAMS REALLY WANT TO WIN
THESE SUMMERTIME GAMES PLUS
MORE CHANGES TO THE LEAGUE LANDSCAPE
When the National Football League kicks off its 2015 Preseason sked come Sunday night with the annual Hall of Fame Game – that’s the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Minnesota Vikings in Canton -- you can better believe that more than a few teams will be emphasizing winning these summertime games.
True, there figures to be a bunch of veteran teams with veteran coaches that don’t feel the need to crank out “W’s” in these exhibition games but in today’s Jim Sez we’ve compiled a short list of teams that would love to bring back a “winning culture” to their organizations and they want to get winning in their “blood” now -- and we’ll spell out some of the reasons why …
ATLANTA – Last year’s Falcons flopped facemask first with a 6-10 SU (straight-up) mark and the reports of being a “soft team” surfaced time and again to the absolute dismay of long-time owner Arthur Blank. Think rookie head coach Dan Quinn is gonna get the message that former boss-man Mike Smith didn’t get? Look for this NFC South club (one that lost nine of its 10 non-divisional games a year ago) to be gung-ho about winning this summer and you might even see veteran QB Matt Ryan get more than his usual amount of snaps in the first three preseason tilts … stay tuned.
JACKSONVILLE – There’s no doubt that the Jaguars believe their arrow is pointed up at this stage despite the fact the past three seasons included won/loss marks of 2-14, 4-12 and 3-13. Now, third-year head coach Gus Bradley and Company must take that proverbial “next step” and so look for this AFC South squad to step it up and play “for keeps” this summer with the defensive talent a definite upgrade and with team depth way better than it’s been in the past three or four years – and that’s always important come these preseason affairs. Might want to consider the Jags anytime they’re taking points this summer, we’ll let you know!
MIAMI – Don’t believe the jive that things are laid back in South Beach. The fact of the matter is the Dolphins – without a single playoff appearance the past six years – have tried the patience of owner Stephen Ross who spent big bucks to acquire DL Ndamukong Suh and now want to see results immediately. Fully expect the Fish to play with more intensity in these preseason games and don’t be surprised if QB Ryan Tannehill plays a bit deeper into the second and third preseason games plus look for Miami to take more downfield shots even though there’s a few wide receivers banged up and on the shelf at the current time (see WR Kenny Stills and Louisville rookie DaVante Parker).
NEW YORK GIANTS – Normally we’d be quick to tell you a Tom Coughlin-coached team (that is, a 12th-year NFL head coach) won’t make a big deal about playing in a four-week preseason but times have changed for this Jersey squad ‘cause there’s been no playoffs for the past three years in a row (and five of the last six years) and ownership has made it pretty clear that there will be a complete housecleaning at year’s end should this 2015 team fizzle. So, that means there is some sense of urgency this summer for the NFC East crew that’s been dealing with its own bit of drama (see Jason Pierre-Paul and his Fourth of July mishaps, among others) plus there’s a feeling that the Jints need to pick up prodigal son defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes ASAP.
WASHINGTON – Let’s stick with the NFC East here and check out the ‘Skins who have not won a playoff game since 2005 and have been to the post-season just once the past seven years … think folks in the nation’s capital are getting a tad impatient with this crew? Okay, so maybe QB Robert Griffin III won’t be playing 70 percent of the downs in these preseason games but gotta feel Washington will “open up the playbook” for both Griffin III and backup Kirk Cousins, don’t ‘ya think? If second-year head coach Jay Gruden is gonna make some friends inside the Beltway after that 4-12 SU season, then winning right away could be more important that we all realize.
In yesterday’s edition of Jim Sez, we touched on some of the changes we’ll be seeing ‘round the league this year and so let’s chuck in a couple more new looks we’ll be seeing in this year’s NFL …
All eyes are on the relationship between new Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase and “old” QB Jay Cutler who is now working under his fifth different OC since he arrived in the Windy City back in 2009. Gase – most recently the offensive coordinator in Denver – claimed from Day One that Cutler would be judged on what he does now and not the fact he was benched for the team’s final game a year ago in the failed two-year regime of Marc Trestman (remember him?). If the Gase/Cutler pairing does not work than the Bears will sink to the bottom of the NFC North once again and rational minds would have to say it’s time then to get Cutler out of town but let’s first see if things can work between the pair this year …
The Indianapolis Colts have been making the old-fashioned progression to Super Bowl champs from losing a wild card playoff game in 2012, to losing in the divisional round in 2013 to losing the AFC Championship Game a year ago – yes, that much-discussed 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots – but the $64,000 question is have the Colts made the correct tweaks to their roster to get over the hump in 2015? The club’s biggest off-season free-agent signings included WR Andre Johnson (Houston) and RB Frank Gore (San Francisco)along with LB Trent Cole who is looking to jack up his sack total of 6.5 from a year ago in Philadelphia but might G Todd Herremans (also coming over from Philly) be the team’s biggest acquisition as this O-line spends some summertime getting shuffled till things feel just right for QB Andrew Luck. If Herremans can open some holes for Gore and Company, than Luck may not spend so much time getting sacked (Luck was sacked 27 times last year but hit a whole lot more than that!).
Folks, Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers want to welcome you to the start of the 2015 Football Season.
Okay, so it all actually begins this Sunday with the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Minnesota Vikings and there’s another four weeks of money-making NFL Preseason Games that follow while the College Football campaign swings into gear in early September.
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 www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 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?
Note: Catch our NFL Hall of Fame Game Preview this weekend right here in Jim Sez.