cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/28/2012 10:20 PM

Patriots Spend Offseason With Focus On Defense

In case anyone was wondering, we can state with absolute certainty that Bill Belichick is not past his sell-by date as an NFL head coach.

Indeed, in retrospect, we believe that steering the New England Patriots into last season’s Super Bowl was an achievement that rivaled any in “The Hoodie’s” illustrious career at Foxborough, including his first Super Bowl triumph back in January of 2002. The Pats had several holes to fill last season, especially with a rebuilt defense that proved an albatross for much of the 2011 campaign, yet still finished the regular season at 13-3, cantering home to another AFC East title.

Belichick was able to X and O his way back to another championship game, and almost coaxed enough out of that suspect stop unit to win his fourth title. New England came to the brink only to run out of “D” in the final minutes last February in Indianapolis, when the Giants scored very late for a 21-17 win in Super Bowl XLVI.

After coming so close last season, Belichick figures to give it another shot this fall as the quest for an elusive fourth Super Bowl win continues. As it is, Belichick is ruing that the Giants have twice repelled the Patriots in recent Super Bowls, although all indicators suggest that Belichick isn’t done yet. Another Super Bowl win qualifies Belichick as one of the immortal coaches in NFL history, as well as putting QB Tom Brady in a very select pantheon of pro football signal-callers.

Las Vegas wagering outlets suspect Belichick ought to be right in the middle of things as usual this fall, with season win totals listed mostly at 12½ through mid-summer. The Patriots are also prohibitive 1/6 choices at most Nevada sports books again win the AFC East, and a solid 16/5 choice to win the AFC and return to the Super Bowl where they’re priced at 13/2 to win, co-favorites along with Green Bay to snare the crown.

The Don Best odds screen also has opening week NFL regular-season prices posted, and notes that most Las Vegas sports books New England favored by 6½ over the host Titans in the September 9 regular-season opener.

We’ll get to the offense in a moment; as long as Brady stays healthy, we don’t expect the strike force to cause problems except for opposing defenses fall. It’s Belichick’s own stop unit that likely determines whether the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl on February 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where Belichick won his first title almost 11 years prior to the day.

Familiar Patriots stalwarts from the title teams such as Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi were long gone from the lineup last fall when Belichick went into a serious rebuild mode with his “D” that was trying to blood several newcomers on the fly. New England was strafed repeatedly during this adjustment phase, but fortunately had Brady and a potent offense to trade points in any shootouts.

When the smoke cleared, the Patriots ranked 31st (or second-worst) in total defense; the fact Belichick could steer his team so close to another Super Bowl win despite these handicaps still amazes. Pass defense was particularly soft, allowing an AFC-worst 294 ypg.

Maturity alone in the stop unit wasn’t enough to satisfy Belichick in the offseason, as New England practically disdained offense in last April’s NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Belichick went defense-defense-defense-defense-defense-defense with his first six picks, even trading up (from 27th to 21st) in the first round to take Syracuse DE Chandler Jones with the Pats’ top pick.

Belichick kept adding defensive parts after nabbing Jones, with Alabama ILB Dont’a Hightower chosen four picks later in the first round, and Illinois CB Tavon Wilson grabbed with the 48th overall selection. Safe to say that Belichick was drafting for need in April.

The addition of Jones is significant because one of the key offseason losses through free agency was DE Mark Anderson, who enlisted with the division-rival Bills after recording a healthy 10 sacks a year ago. Along with Hightower, Jones has already been penciled in as one of two likely rookie starters on the Belichick defense.

Although Jones could become a fixture at DE, Belichick is likely to continue rotating other positions along the DL aside brutish DT Vince Wilfork, who was the one constant in the defensive front last season. Belichick’s multiple defensive looks switch between 3-4 and 4-3 alignments, and constant substitution became a pattern a year ago. Expect more of the same this fall.

While the defense struggled as a whole last fall, LB Jerod Mayo certainly did not, emerging as the key element of the platoon and now rewarded as such with a $50 million contract. The versatile Mayo plays on the inside in Belichick’s 3-4 versions but transitions to the “Will” role when the Pats opt for 4-3 looks instead.

Though Mayo is a constant force, Belichick has not received that sort of consistency from the rest of his LBs. In particular, 3rd-year Brandon Spikes is reaching a crossroads after having trouble staying healthy the past two years and often performing erratically when on the field. At his best, however, he dominates, which Belichick is hoping to unleash this fall.

The secondary also remains in flux, especially if 3rd-year CB Devin McCourty can’t rediscover the Pro Bowl form of his rookie season in 2010. McCourty was mostly abysmal last fall, prompting Belichick to even move him to safety at times late last season. If McCourty can’t bounce back, Belichick’s secondary will again lack a coverage leader, consequences of which could be dangerous if the Pats again rank at the bottom of AFC pass defense stats.

We have spent most of this space wondering about what might happen defensively because we have little concern about the New England strike force, even with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien leaving Foxborough for Penn State. That’s partly because new coordinator Josh McDaniels is also the old coordinator, having served in that capacity during the Patriots’ record-breaking 2007 campaign when forging an easy working relationship with Brady.

Though McDaniels’ head coaching adventure in Denver didn’t go well – which has been the case with many Belichick disciples – and he was stuck in a tough situation last season in St. Louis, his skills seem to mesh with the role Belichick has granted him once more.

We often think it doesn’t make too much difference who is coordinating the Patriots’ offense as long as Brady is still around. Now 35, Brady has hardly given signs that he is on the downside of his career; last year Brady passed for a career-best 5,235 yards, one of the best seasons in NFL history, and added a whopping 39 TD passes. His 105.9 rating in 2011 was the third-best of his career. Hardly the numbers of a QB who might be slipping.

Physically, Brady still seems up to the task, although his fastball has lost a little bit of zip in recent years. But he has made up for that slight downgrade with experience and mechanical improvements, including a better feel for sliding within the pocket to avoid danger. Brady will never be Michael Vick, but has at least developed a better sense of avoiding pressure, if only for an extra split-second, than earlier in his career.

The most-significant issue on the attack end is what the Patriots are going to do about their ground game. Although mastering a short-pass offense that effectively took the place of an infantry diversion last fall, New England is lacking an established power back to gouge out the tough yards that departed Benjarvus Green-Ellis (who moved to the Bengals in free agency) provided a year ago. The 1-2 combo of Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead hardly provides that dimension; there are openings for a variety of fullback-types to carve out a short-yardage niche in the backfield, and sources say that ex-Navy banger Eric Kettani, released early from his service commitments, looms as an interesting alternative.

Still, Brady’s ability to throw short and accurate somewhat lessens the need for a top-notch infantry diversion. Developing great rapport with TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (employed as a H-back at times late last season, and even carrying the ball a few times in that role) became the core of last season’s prolific offense.

To wit: Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for a staggering 169 catches last fall with 24 TDs between them (17 by Gronkowski). No NFL team comes close to using the tight ends as effectively as New England.

There were some offseason distractions in the wide receiver ranks, however, as the productive Wes Welker (who led NFL receivers for the third time in five years last fall with his astounding 122 catches) was involved in a contract dispute and enters training camp in a disgruntled mood after being slapped with the franchise player tag. But the Pats enlisted WR reinforcements in the offseason, where the once-productive ex-Bronco and Ram Brandon Lloyd and ex-Redskin Jabar Gaffney were added to the receiving corps.

Contract issues also threaten to disrupt continuity on the offensive line, where starting RG Brian Waters was a no-show at the beginning of training camp and appears to be making good on his threat of a holdout. The key development up front will be to see how 2nd-year Nate Solder handles the switch from the right tackle spot to the left side, where he replaces the retired Matt Light who protected Brady’s backside for the past decade.

Interestingly, Belichick’s Patriots emerged as the NFL’s premier ‘over’ team the past couple of seasons; they’re ‘over’ a staggering 26-8 since 2010, confirming both a defensive downturn and more proficiency from Brady and the strike force.

Belichick’s team has also offered better spread value as a visitor (11-5 vs. line) the past two years than at Gillette Stadium, where the Pats have been only .500 vs. the number the past two years.

Summary: With AFC East foes in various stages of reloading, it would be a shocker if Belichick didn’t once again dominate his division and get back to what would be New England’s 10th playoff appearance in 12 seasons. Making the postseason, however, is a given with Belichick (at least as long as Brady stays healthy); success is measured in Foxborough by Super Bowls. And the Patriots have a chance to return to another one, and maybe win it all for the first time in eight years.

If, that is, they figure out their running game, and Belichick’s new defensive additions make it easier for the master to scheme his stop unit combinations as he has been able to do with his better New England defenses.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/28/2012 10:22 PM

Philadelphia Eagles Top NFC East Discussion

Always entertaining, the NFC East produced a Super Bowl winner last season when the New York Giants made a mad dash the final few weeks of the regular season before an improbable run through the postseason to the championship.

Though often maligned, a lot of the credit for a second NFL title in five seasons goes to Tom Coughlin who enters his ninth season at the helm with New York 5/2 to repeat atop the division. That is the second-longest tenure in the division behind Philadelphia's Andy Reid who will be in his 14h season running the sidelines for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philly started horribly in 2011 after being among preseason favorites to win it all, and is the favorite in 2012 to win the NFC East at 3/2. Reid is on the hot seat entering the campaign.

Relative newcomers to the division are head coaches Mike Shanahan and Jason Garrett. Shanahan is no newcomer to the head coaching ranks after a successful tenure with the Denver Broncos that included two Super Bowl winners, but that hasn't translated to success in his first two years at Washington where the Redskins are just 11-21 and a big long shot in 2012.

Garrett took over late in 2010 when the Dallas Cowboys fired Wade Phillips. The Cowboys are 13-11 overall under the former Miami and Dallas assistant and off an 8-8 campaign that ended with four losses over the final five weeks. Jerry Jones' club is 5/2 to win its first division title since 2009.

Eagles Draw Only Double-Digit Win Total In Group
Despite being in the line of fire on the job front, Reid has been a proven winner over the years in Philly, coaching the Eagles to 10+ wins in eight of his previous 13 seasons.

Philadelphia is expected to reach at least that number again with 10 for the 'over/under' in the win column after opening at 10½. The Eagles are the only squad in the NFC East with a double-digit win total entering the schedule.

New York opened at 8½ but have been bet up to 9-9½. More on that later when we get into the strength of schedule.

Dallas is sitting at 8½ and priced to the 'over,' with a few 9's at various locales. Washington brings up the rear at 6-6½.

Division Spends Relatively Quiet Offseason In Free Agency
There weren't any huge splashes in the division in terms of acquiring veteran talent during the offseason, but the Cowboys did make a big move to strengthen their secondary with the addition of CB Brandon Carr. Don Best's Kenny White really thinks this was a great pickup for Dallas.

"He's got great size, great speed. He's a leaper," White said of the former KC defensive back. "He's going to make himself a name now with the Cowboys."

Dallas also added former Carolina LB Dan Connor who is out of Linebacker U, Penn State.

Washington brought in WR Pierre Garcon, formerly of the Colts, and the 6th-year player out of Mount Union should eventually team to form a potent tandem with Robert Griffin III at QB for the Redskins. Garcon caught 137 passes the past two seasons in Indianapolis.

Philadelphia stole an offensive lineman from Buffalo for a 2nd-straight season as Demetress Bell joins the Eagles. Bell, the son of NBA great Karl Malone, is a critical pickup for the Eagles who lost OT Jason Peters to a double Achilles injury, a potentially career-ending injury.

RG3 Leads NFC East Rookie Class
No doubt about it, Robert Griffin III was the biggest name added to the division when the Redskins took the 2011 Heisman winner with the second overall pick. Kenny White doesn't expect numbers quite like what Carolina rookie QB Cam Newton put up in 2011, but does like Griffin's ability to throw the deep ball.

Dallas further upgraded its secondary by trading up in the draft to get Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall selection. The former LSU corner had offseason wrist surgery and just agreed to a 4-year, $16.25 million contract. He joins Brandon Carr to provide an immediate impact on the Cowboys defense.

The biggest impact from a rookie could come from Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox out of Mississippi State. The 12th overall choice is expected to live up to his run-stuffing promise which the Eagles desperately need. Almost lost in the entire draft was Philly taking Arizona QB Nick Foles in Round 3, a classic NFL pocket passer who is expected to be Michael Vick's heir apparent in Philadelphia.

New York went with a couple of offensive weapons early in the draft, selecting Va Tech tailback David Wilson with the final pick in Round 1 before snagging LSU WR Rueben Randle near the end of Round 2. Wilson could end up being a steal according to Kenny White.

Giants Face Monster Schedule In Defense Of Title
Should New York just reach the postseason this year, much less repeat as the champ, it will be amazing given the schedule that awaits. Outside of their division slate, the Giants have road games at Carolina, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Baltimore. Three home games include the Steelers, Packers and Saints.

Philadelphia has tough non-division road dates at Pittsburgh and New Orleans, plus draws the Ravens, Falcons and Bengals at home. Dallas opens on the road at the Giants and Seahawks, and also travels to meet the Ravens, Panthers, Falcons and Bengals. The good news is at least the Cowboys get the Bears, Steelers and Saints in Big D.

It's almost tough to find anything you might call an 'easy game' on Washington's slate until the 'Skins reach Cleveland in Week 15.


TEAM DIVISION NFC SUPER BOWL
Dallas Cowboys 5/2
11/1
18/1

New York Giants 2/1
10/1
18/1

Philadelphia Eagles 3/2
6/1
12/1

Washington Redskins 9/1
28/1
60/1

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/28/2012 10:24 PM

Miami Dolphins To Bring Up AFC East Rear

They’ve been trying to recreate the early ‘70s in Miami for the past four decades. Can it be that long ago since Don Shula was winning Super Bowls with the Dolphins?

Post-Shula, however, Miami has found the winning recipe to be quite elusive. The fact the era also roughly coincided with Dan Marino’s retirement has been another factor in a mostly-forgotten decade-plus of Dolphins football.

Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sparano have all tried and failed to recreate the Shula magic in South Florida. Now Joe Philbin, most recently the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, gives it a stab as the 10th head coach (including a couple of interims) in the franchise’s history that began as an AFL expansion franchise in 1966.

Expectations are rather optimistic in Miami despite the Dolphins’ 6-10 finish a year ago. The AFC East doesn’t appear to be quite as menacing these days, especially with the Jets loaded with trip wires and the Bills still struggling to gain traction. Which might be why most Las Vegas sports books have posted the Miami 2012 win total at 7½, with many bettors not blinking before casting their 'over' preference. The DonBest.com odds screen already has posted a number on the Dolphins’ September 9 opener at Houston, with the Texans installed as an early 7-point favorite.

Philbin made sense as the culmination of the Miami head coaching search after last season, mainly because of his offensive credentials from his decorated stint on the Packers staff. Philbin is also considered a sage play-caller and QB tutor after helping Aaron Rodgers achieve greatness in such a short period of time at Lambeau Field.

He has never been a head coach at any level, however, and the list of high-profile coordinators who have failed as head coaches is long and distinguished. As usual, we’re taking a wait-and-see attitude before considering Philbin the right man for the job at Sun Life Stadium.

Philbin insists he is not rebuilding anything in Miami, and the Dolphins did close with a rush last season, winning six of their last nine games. The only problem was that the uptick occurred after Miami broke 0-7 from the gate.

Offensive woes were the main problem a year ago; among other things, inconsistent work along the line proved problematic in protecting Dolphin QBs, who were sacked 52 times.

Philbin’s first order of business is to install an up-tempo West Coast offense similar to the one he coordinated in Green Bay. Finding a pilot to fly the new plane, however, figures to extend throughout the preseason.

Miami took its first step in its remake at the April Draft when tabbing Texas A&M’s QB Ryan Tannehill as its first-round selection. Tannehill had moved up the draft boards dramatically in the preceding weeks after further impressing in the pre-draft workouts. A one-time WR at A&M, Tannehill seems to possess the athletic intangibles necessary to succeed in the NFL. Whether the fundamentals and other factors develop as needed remains to be seen.

It is also regarded as a plus that Tannehill’s former A&M coach, Mike Sherman, is also Philbin’s new offensive coordinator. The Philbin version of the West Coast is similar to what Sherman was running at College Station. The adjustment phase for Tannehill, goes the thought, might be smoother because of these unique dynamics.

Still, many AFC East scouts believe that Miami can win with holdover Matt Moore at QB as the Dolphins did late last season when Moore proved a better option than Chad Henne, whose injury problems ironically triggered a mild turnaround with Moore at the control. Moore passed for 2427 yards with 16 TDs and 9 picks a year ago and became more comfy at the controls as the season progressed.

But the QB derby remains undecided, as not only did Miami add Tannehill, but also added veteran free agent David Garrard, who figures to compete for the job in August as well.

A development to monitor is Tannehill’s contract status, which had yet to be resolved at the end of July. Tannehill missed the start of training camp and would figure to have to be in the fold soon if he has designs on the starting role for the opener at Houston.

Several AFC East observers, however, believe that Philbin will likely go with Moore until Tannehill is ready, with Garrard as a fall-back option. Stay tuned for further developments.

Whoever is in the lineup at QB will have plenty of skilled weaponry to utilize...at least in the running game. Reggie Bush experienced a long-overdue breakout campaign in 2011 when rushing for 1,086 yards, and 2nd-year ex-Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas flashed plenty of upside last fall when gaining another 581 yards Explosive Miami Hurricanes rookie Lamar Miller, a 4th-round draft choice, adds another dimension to the infantry.

More serious questions offensively have to do with the receiving corps and the forward wall. In particular the former, which looks to lack a game-breaking threat after Brandon Marshall (who led Dolphins receivers by a wide margin last year when catching 81 passes) was traded to the Bears. The late-spring addition of Chad Johnson, formerly Ochocinco, who from all indications is past his sell-by date, appears a desperate roll of the dice. Holdovers Davone Bess and Brian Hartline certainly lack the home run dimension Marshall provided.

Meanwhile, the offensive line, nicked by injuries a year ago, remains filled with questions. Sources say the line lacks top-flight athleticism, and might not have the sort of mobility that Philbin prefers for his zone-blocking schemes. Although LT Jake Long and C Mike Pouncey are solid, the entire right side of the line is undergoing another rebuild. For what seems like an eternity, the Miami offensive line again remains a work in progress.

Philbin, however, does inherit a capable defense from the previous regime. Miami’s stingy defense ranked sixth in points allowed a year ago, and prospects are encouraging for continuing that pattern.

Still, some adjustments are being made, and new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle will be switching the Dolphins to a 4-3 base from their previous 3-4 looks. The most important offseason development was retaining Pro Bowl NT Paul Soliai, who will anchor from a more-traditional DT spot this fall.

Coyle, however, might be asking a lot of 3rd-round draftee Olivier Vernon, another former Miami Hurricane but already penciled into a starting role opposite Cameron Wake, who has 28 sacks the past three seasons.

Coyle is also hoping that the alignment modifications will help to better unleash the potential of LBs Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, who each recorded 100-plus tackles last year but whose ceilings suggest more upside is possible.

Meanwhile, although 4th-year CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith have collectively matured into a pair of competent corners, and the FA addition of CB Richard Marshall provides extra options, especially in nickel looks. There are, however, some questions at the safety spots, especially at free safety where someone has to emerge to complement emerging SS Reshad Jones.

Special teams-wise, the Dolphins have Pro Bowl-caliber kickers in P Brandon Fields and PK Dan Carpenter, but the return units have lacked pizzazz in recent years.

The Dolphins developed several extremely interesting spread patterns in the Sparano years, including a year ago when their spread performance (not surprisingly) reflected their straight-up pattern that reversed at midseason; Miami was 7-1 vs. the line its last nine games in 2011 after covering just one of its first six outings.

Sparano’s Miami was also one of those rare “inside-out” teams that performed better vs. the line on the road than at home. Over the past two seasons, the Dolphins posted an eye-opening 12-4 spread mark away from Sun Life Stadium but were just 5-10-1 vs. the mark at home. Correspondingly, Miami was 13-7 as an underdog and just 3-8-1 as chalk.

With the recent inconsistencies on offense, and the solid defense, it was also no surprise that Miami recorded a 12-4 'under' mark last season, and is 'under' 16-5 in its last 21 games since late in the 2010 campaign. Philbin’s arrival, and his offensive emphasis, could change those dynamics.

Summary: Perhaps Philbin is right; maybe Miami isn’t in a rebuilding phase, as the Dolphins were playing playoff-quality football for the last half of the 2011 campaign. But we’re not sure the uptick continues into this fall with Philbin and his new staff making several adjustments and hardly endorsing Matt Moore, under whom the Dolphins won down the stretch last season, as the starting QB. The thought persists that whether it be Moore or Garrard at QB, either is simply holding the position until Tannehill is ready. But if Tannehill gets on the field this fall, it’s probably because the Dolphins are not progressing into the playoff mix. And whoever is at QB will be looking over their shoulder.

There are other issues at the receiver spots and along the line on the offensive side and the defense, while good, probably can’t carry the team to the playoffs. We suspect we’ll have a better read on the direction of the Philbin Dolphins at this time next summer.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/28/2012 10:27 PM

Patriots Highlight 2012 AFC East Preview

Don Best kicks off a look at each division in the NFL with a preview of the AFC East, and any first glance of the division has to begin with the New England Patriots.

The Pats are once again prohibitive favorites to capture the AFC East title, a crown they have worn in eight of the last nine seasons along with five conference championships in the last 11 years. Head coach Bill Belichick bolstered his staff in the offseason by adding former Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as the new offensive coordinator.

All four teams in the division underwent changes to the brain trust down on the field, including the Miami Dolphins who brought in Joe Philbin to assume head coaching duties. Philbin was most recently the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, and hired former Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman to assume those duties in Miami.

Former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano wasn't out of work long after being canned in Miami last season. Sparano found new work in New York as the Jets' offensive coordinator, while Dave Wannstedt was hired by Buffalo to run the Bills' defense.

Buffalo Adds Defensive Standouts Via Free Agent Market
Wannstedt is tasked with turning around a very porous Bills defense that surrendered 434 points in 2011, most in the AFC and third-highest in the NFL. Helping Wannstedt out will be a pair of pass rush specialists Buffalo picked up in the offseason, Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.

Williams, the top pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, marking the second straight season he had been relegated to injured reserve. Anderson, who played with Williams at Houston in 2010, recorded 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2011. Buffalo also should have tackle Kyle Williams back from an injury-marred campaign, and teams with fellow tackle Marcell Dareus to make for a formidable defensive line.

"It's going to be scary," Don Best analyst Kenny White said of the Bills defensive front. "It's going to be very, very good. This Buffalo defense will be one of the tops in the NFL."

Other notable offseason additions in the AFC East include WR Brandon Lloyd signing with New England, former Jacksonville QB David Garrard going to Miami and the Jets adding QB Tim Tebow along with safety LaRon Landry. White believes Garrard will win the Dolphins' starting QB job and that Tebow will be limited to a few snaps per game in Sparano's wildcat formation at New York.

Several Rookies Should Get Immediate On-The-Job Training
Buffalo also used the draft to upgrade its defense, selecting South Carolina DB Stephon Gilmore with the 10th overall pick. Both he and 2nd-round pick OT Cordy Glenn are expected to start for the Bills.

Whoever the quarterback turns out to be in New York, they will have a speedy rookie to look for downfield after the Jets selected Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech in the 2nd-round. New York spent its 1st-round pick (No. 16) on North Carolina DE Quinton Coples.

New England hopes to make up for the loss of Mark Anderson to Buffalo after selecting Syracuse DE Chandler Jones in the first round. The Patriots also drafted Arkansas DE Jake Bequette with the 90th overall choice in Round 3.

Patriots Begin '12 With Easiest Schedule In Division
The rotating schedule in the NFL should be a plus for all AFC East squads, but it could really help New England who heads into the 2012 campaign with the easiest schedule in the league. The Patriots only play four teams that won nine or more games in 2011, the toughest of those contests being a road trip to face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3.

Buffalo has the third-easiest schedule in the NFL, and that is one reason why the Bills should be improved with Kenny White predicting them to finish second in the AFC East ahead of the Jets. The Bills open the season at the Jets in a crucial Week 1 clash, and travel to face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5 for their toughest non-division road tilt.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
thehitman Posts:2114 Followers:4
07/29/2012 12:03 PM

Bump.......thanks for the reading

Never, ever criticize someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes........for at that point they will be a mile away. And you'll have their shoes !
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/30/2012 05:00 PM

AFC South Outlook

July 30, 2012

When it comes to the NFL and teams hailing from the south there is an abundant supply of storylines this season, and we're not even talking about New Orleans.

The AFC South takes on a new look in 2012 with future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning now a member of the Mile High club and his replacement, Andrew Luck, hoping to fill some mighty big shoes in Nap Town.

After taking a year off with neck surgery and watching his beloved Indianapolis Colts suffer though a ghastly 2-win season last year, Manning was released and quickly lured to Denver by John Elway.

Quarterback issues also surround the other three teams in this division, with Houston anxious to work Matt Schaub back into the starting lineup following an injury-shortened season last year, while Jacksonville and Tennessee hope the compulsory maturation of Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker happens sooner than later.

Meanwhile, the defending division champion Texans lost all-pro defensive stud Mario Williams to free agency and as a result will rely more than ever on defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' playbook.

Two notes of interest concerning the AFC South: Since their inception in 2002, this division has been a home dog haven, with its members going 63-44-1ATS, including 37-20-1 during the 2nd half of the season.

In addition, this contingent has dominated the NFC North, its non-conference antagonists this season, going 14-3 SU and 12-5 ATS all-time against losing teams from the Black-and-Blue division, including 8-0 SU and ATS in games when the South is off a loss.

Through it all look for the South to continue to rise in 2012.

Designated 'Play On' and 'Play Against' Best Bets follow each team's preview.

HOUSTON
Team Theme: NO MORE HORSING AROUND

The phrase 'we're not a one-horse town' was never more evident than last year in Houston's run to its first-ever playoff berth. To illustrate Houston's improved play on the field, after splitting out 8-8 'In The Stats' in 2010, the Texans dominated foes in 2011, going 14-4 in the stat wars. Further illumination comes from the fact that Houston's three best players, DL Mario Williams, WR Andre Johnson and QB Matt Schaub missed 26 games combined with injury last year, yet still managed to rule foes statistically behind its 2nd-ranked defense and its 2nd-ranked rushing game. While it's an old formula that's tried and true, running the ball and stopping the run has fallen by the wayside in this day of pass-happy football. We realize passing yards have increased 60 YPG in the NFL since it introduced new rule changes in 2004, but when you have a horse like Arian Foster in the backfield, you complement him with an excellent coaching staff and let him go. Between Gary Kubiak's playbook, Rick Dennison's offensive mind and Wade Phillips' defensive schemes, the Texans are standing tall these days.

PLAY ON: vs. Baltimore (10/21)

Stat You Will Like: The Texans held six foes to season-low, or 2nd-low, yards last season.

IN THE STATS: The Texans were 14-4 'ITS' last season.

INDIANAPOLIS
Team Theme: BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

The big news surrounding this franchise this offseason was the announcement that Bill and Chris Polian are out of the front office. In addition, Jim Caldwell was given the boot. Enter Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who takes over as head coach. Included in the new face lift are changes to key personnel, too, including pink slips to the likes of Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Pierre Garcon, Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, and so on. The big news, though, was the selection of QB Andrew Luck as the No. 1 pick of the draft. Two tight ends, two wide receivers and an additional quarterback were also plucked in the draft as it's out with the old and in with the new in Nap Town these days. In addition, the defense also gets a redo, installing the hybrid 3-4 system used by Pagano in Baltimore. Three players from the Ravens' defense were added to help fast-track the changes. Like sh*t, it's what happens when you go from a nine-year playoff run to a 2-win season. Oh yeah, this just in… Peyton Manning was released and will be performing with another horse act in Denver.

PASS

Stat You Will Like: The Colts lost more games last year in the regular season than they did the previous three years combined.

IN THE STATS: The Colts were 1-7 'ITS' at home last season.

JACKSONVILLE
Team Theme: COLOR ME NEW

A new coach, new owner and new uniforms will be the look of the 2012 Jaguars. The question is will they be a better team? Our best guess is yes, and it starts with the fact that they can't get any worse. Ranked last in total offense and passing, new coach Mike Mularkey's first move was to bring in passing specialists OC Bob Bratkowski and QB coach Greg Olson. Coupled with Mularkey's offensive mindset, better days indeed lie ahead for QB Blaine Gabbert, last year's No. 1 pick who was force-fed in an effort to stave off the imminent unemployment of Jack Del Rio. A ground game which averaged 123 yards per game is spearheaded by the NFL's leading rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew. WR Justin Blackmon, the 5th pick in this year's draft, brings an added dimension to the passing game. The defense, which improved 53 YPG last season despite being on the field far too often, beefed up with four players chosen among the Jags' six selections in the draft. It's no malarkey… the Jaguars are on their way back up.

PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Cincinnati (9/30)

Stat You Will Like: The Jaguars are 7-0-1 ATS away with division revenge the past five seasons.

IN THE STATS: The Jags failed to gain more than 325 yards in a single game last season.

TENNESSEE
Team Theme: ABOVE AND BEYOND

Considering the circumstances, the nine-win effort by Mike Munchak in his first year with the Titans last season was extraordinary. Munchak took over after Jeff Fisher's 16-year marriage with the Titans was annulled and immediately encountered a four-month lockout by the NFL. Then, after a new coaching staff hurriedly got on the same page with QB Matt Hasselbeck, WR Kenny Britt was lost to a knew injury the third game of the year and star RB Chris Johnson suffered a subpar season following a nasty holdout. With Britt and Johnson back - and Nate Washington developing into a 1,000-yard wired receive in Britt's absence - the Titans have to feel awfully good about last year's near-miss from the playoffs. And if QB Jake Locker is able to win the job from Hasselbeck, it means the future is 'now' in Tennessee. The Titans will need to fix a leaky defense that was way too soft against the rush and a youth movement has begun to address the problem. With five of their seven drafts picks targeting defensive players, Munchak aims to take his team to the next level.

PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. NY Jets (12/17)

Stat You Will Like: 13 of the Titans' 25 losses the last three years have been by 8 or fewer points.

IN THE STATS: The Titans allowed season-high, or 2nd-high, yards in 5 of their first 7 games last year.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/30/2012 05:02 PM

Vegas Sports Book Notes

July 30, 2012

My intention was to watch as much of the Olympics I could from beginning to end, but I soon realized that after the pageantry of the opening ceremonies was over, I was back into my regular routine of just watching baseball over the weekend. "What happened?" I asked myself while watching pieces of the canoe slalom on a very late Sunday night.

I had been so enamored with Queen Elizabeth II in the opening ceremonies, showing a playful side to her no one had ever seen before. I figured I‘d be bunkered in for the weekend watching hours of coverage on all channels over the weekend. How could you not get fired up with David Beckham, James Bond, and Sir Paul McCartney also playing brilliant roles?

I came to the realization that my attention span was steered elsewhere for multiple reasons, beginning with no betting in Nevada to keep up with some of the events. Whether betting or not, odds always tell a story before an event happens. They tell us what is supposed to happen based on past trends and analysis from the sharpest minds at their craft.

The fun of following along with the odds in a sporting event is to see what outcome occurs, compared with what was predicted, with the most interesting angles emerging being those that defy the odds and persevere, otherwise known as the longshot.

Now, I could have easily went to one of the British bookmakers websites and followed along, but without being available in Nevada, it seemed rather pointless.

Another revelation that also hit me why I didn’t watch as much Olympic coverage as intended was that I was less informed. Like many people in world, I find myself rarely reading newspapers and relying on the internet to pick and choose what I want to read, rather than accidentally running into news like I used to as little as four years ago.

My Google news page gives me all the top stories that happened, but my horizons weren’t broadened to read things like the confusing NBC television coverage on multiple channels. Perhaps if I read newspapers, the coverage wouldn’t be so confusing. It’s only a click away on the internet, but it’s a choice I have to make and apparently the more interesting personal choice was to see what baseball teams have the best and worst batting averages over the last two weeks.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am less smarter than I was four years ago when regularly reading the newspaper. I'm smart in the things I want to be smart about, while in the process dismissing so much more going on. And without odds attached to a sporting event, it makes it far less appealing.

So, to better keep up with my initial intentions of following this years Olympics from London, I will take it upon myself to grab a USA Today daily, and to make it even more interesting down the stretch, print out some odds from the England books.

It still would be simpler for Nevada to just book the Olympics, but my plight wouldn’t carry much weight on the Nevada Gaming Control Board agenda.

LVH Super Contest Weekend
Leave it to Jay Kornegay to come up with one of the more clever football promotions recently seen in Las Vegas. The LVH Super Book director is killing multiple birds with one stone on a weekend of festivities scheduled for August 24-25. Not only has Kornegay intertwined a handicapping seminar with the sharpest minds in the industry, but he’s also tied in his famous Super Contest with a day of Golf and giveaways.

At the end of the events, Kornegay will hold a free reception on Saturday night that is open to the public where he raffles off three Super Contest entries valued at $1,500 each. All Super Contest contestants signed up to that point will receive five raffle tickets. All those who participate in the golf outing ($95 entry fee) will be issued two raffle tickets. The third way to obtain raffle tickets is by making $25 future book wagers with a maximum of five raffle tickets given out.

For a $125 investment in future wagers, bettors have a great chance at gaining entry into the most prestigious sports handicapping contest in the world. And with some luck, the initial $125 in future wagers could also become winners.

We’ll includes more details of this great event as the date nears closer.

Bogdanovich Making Presence Known
William Hill’s Nick Bogdanovich made an immediate impact when taking over the U.S. bookmaking operations two weeks ago just by the type of odds offered. He immediately lowered the theoretic hold on all future wagers offered at the merged sports books of Leroys, Cal-Neva, and Lucky’s.

In addition, Bogdanovich also offers daily alternative runs lines in baseball where you can bet the underdog wins by two-runs or more, or you can lay -2.5 runs with the favorite. They’ve also got baseball series prices available twice a week. It was also a pleasant surprise to see odds on the NASCAR Nationwide series and Formula One races over the weekend.

More William Hill
Next week we’ll go more in depth with all the football contests occurring around town, but it’s worth noting now that William Hill will be offering two contests, one for pro and one for college. The prize money offered is rumored to be close to what Station Casinos and Coast Resorts offer for their wildly popular pro football contests. An official announcement is expected within the next week.


Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/31/2012 02:53 PM

NY Giants Face Tough Road Back To Super Bowl

New York is priced at 14/1 to win a second consecutive Super Bowl.

We hate to bring this up to New York Giants fans who still might be basking (understandably so) in the glow of last February’s pulsating Super Bowl XLVI win over the Patriots, but there has been a definite downside to past Super Bowl wins by the G-Men.

The following seasons.

As glass-is-half-empty as that might sound, it’s also true.

Granted, there were some extenuating circumstances involved in each of those previous forgettable campaigns, but they’re merely the sorts of things that happen to teams that don’t win Super Bowls.

For example, in 1987, the year after the Giants won their first Super Bowl title, the NFL season was significantly altered by an early-season work stoppage and three weeks of “replacement” football. The dynamics did the Giants, who lost their first two before the disruption, no favors, as the replacement G-Men lost all three of their games. By the time the “real” Giants returned to the field in late October, they were already 0-5 and out of the playoff chase, en route to a 6-9 finish.

Fast-forward to 1991, the year after the unforgettable 20-19 Super Bowl win over the Bills in Tampa. Remember, however, that head coach Bill Parcells retired (for the first, and not the last, time in his career) after the Super Bowl vs. the Bills, and Ray Handley’s forgettable two-year run as head coach commenced the next season in ‘91. No need to elaborate; the G-Men faded to an 8-8 mark.

More recently, look to 2008, when for a while it seemed as if the G-Men were in good shape to defend the Super Bowl crown they won the previous February in Glendale vs. Bill Belichick’s then-unbeaten Patriots. With only one loss into late November, the Giants nonetheless unraveled after the Plaxico Burress gun incident in a Manhattan nightclub. New York lost three of its last four regular-season games, then was listless in a 23-11 playoff loss to the Eagles, with the Burress fiasco a major distraction. It was a depressing way to end what had for so long seemed to be an uplifting season.

Now, the G-Men look to defend another Super Bowl crown this fall, but the dynamics appear to be a bit different than in the past. Unlike past Super Bowl seasons, New York hardly resembled a powerhouse for much of the 2011 campaign; indeed, no Super Bowl winner had ever finished as poorly as 9-7 in the regular season, as did the Giants a year ago. And we recall few past Super Bowl winners getting as little respect from the wagering public as are this year’s G-Men.

Oddsmakers, perhaps noting previous NYG failures after past Super Bowl wins (as well as perhaps taking a look at a very-demanding New York schedule), have posted their season win total at a modest 8½ shaded to the ‘over’ (many Las Vegas sports books have priced that ‘over’ as high as -160). The G-men also aren’t favored to retain their crown in the NFC East; the Eagles (13/10) are rated the team to beat, with New York and Dallas both listed at 2/1.

Completing the pre-preseason pricing, the G-Men are listed at 7/1 to win the NFC at most Las Vegas books and 14/1 at the majority of outlets to win another Super Bowl crown.

Looking forward to the regular-season opener on Wednesday, September 5 vs. the Cowboys, the Don Best odds screen notes the G-men are early 3-3½ point favorites, depending upon the Vegas wagering outlet, with a total at 47.

As is often the case with many teams these days, the Giants were forced to do some quick maneuvering due to salary cap considerations in the wake of the Super Bowl win. The G-Men were only able to add a few unrestricted free agents to one-year, minimum salary deals, and were also prevented from re-signing offensive linchpins such as playoff hero WR Mario Manningham and beastly RB Brandon Jacobs. Cornerback Aaron Ross was also allowed to walk in the offseason and signed with Jacksonville.

Where Giants GM Jerry Reese believed he filled some gaps, however, came in last April’s draft. “Best player available” be damned; Reese shrewdly drafted for need right out of the box, using his first two selections for a new RB (Virginia Tech’s David Wilson) and WR (LSU Rueben Randle) to effectively take the places of Jacobs and Manningham. Virginia Tech CB Jayron Hosley was added in the third round to take the place of Ross.

But on the field, head coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride know it is going to be difficult for the Giants to have a shot at repeating if they can’t goose the ground game that generated a measly 89 ypg in 2011 and ranked dead last in the NFL. So much about that old adage that teams need to be able to run to win. Still, Coughlin would much prefer a physical infantry diversion; in that regard, Jacobs could be missed. But the durability of Jacobs and that of holdover Ahmad Bradshaw have been issues in recent years, and Wilson appears to be the sort of all-terrain workhorse who can stay on the field and provide an effective complement to the passing game.

Speaking of the passing game, it remains in good hands with Eli Manning, incredibly now entering his ninth season (where did the years go?). But with two Super Bowl wins under his belt, the only legitimate debate regarding Manning’s credentials regard his qualifications for entry to Canton.

Eli has now passed for better than 4,000 yards each of the last three seasons and topped out at a career-best 4,933 a year ago.

A key development to watch through training camp will be the status of WR Hakeem Nicks (76 catches in 2011), who has a emerged as a very-reliable target for Eli but whose foot injury has resulted in him being placed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list for the preseason. There are hopes that Nicks will be ready for the opener vs. the Cowboys; if he’s not, it could be up to rookie Randle to take some of the pressure off of last year’s surprise package Victor Cruz, the UMass product who nabbed an astounding 92 passes, including a 99-yard TD pass from Eli in a crucial late-season win vs. the Jets.

But the key area on offense could well be along the line, where Coughlin wants to emphasize more drive-blocking to help establish the ground threat. Reese allowed another Super Bowl starter, RT Kareem McKenzie, to walk after last season; Coughlin believes LG Davie Diehl can handle the switch to the RT position. Kevin Boothe steps in as the news starter at LG. Rookie TE Adrien Robinson (Cincinnati) could also emerge as a force in the ground game as he arrives in the NFL with a reputation as an excellent blocker.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s Giants stop unit regressed stat-wise last season, allowing 57 more yards per game than in 2010. But keep those numbers in context because the G-Men were playing outstanding defense down the stretch when holding their last seven foes (including all four playoff victims, including the potent Packers and Patriots) to 20 points or fewer.

By the end of last season, the defensive front had evolved into one of the league’s best, with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul giving Fewell a terrorizing pair on the edges, while Chris Canty and Linval Joseph emerged as a functional pair of tackles. And Reese did not have salary cap issues to worry about his DL; perhaps the Giants’ strongest position group remains intact.

It won’t be until after this coming season that Reese will have some serious contract issues to worry about with his defense, as DE Osi Umenyiora and DE/OLB Mathias Kiwanuka will be unrestricted free agents. For now, however, they remain in the fold, with Umenyiora providing high-quality depth on the edge.

The key offseason addition for the stop unit was adding versatile ex-Bengal LB Keith Rivers, who provides more flexibility for Fewell by perhaps lessening the need to utilize three-safety sets on passing downs.

Early news from summer camp in Albany has been a bit disconcerting, however, as CB Terrell Thomas suffered a knee injury, with early fears that it could involve the same ACL that required surgery last season. Corner is not a position where the Giants can afford to lose many more bodies after Aaron Ross’ offseason departure to the Jags. Virginia Tech rookie Hosley, a bit of a runt at only 178 lbs. but a ballhawk in his college days, might get a chance sooner than expected (Coughlin was considering Hosley mostly as a punt returner and possible nickel back in his rookie year).

Spread-wise, Coughlin’s teams have been prone to streaks over the years; last season, they covered their last six and eight of their last nine, reminiscent of the 2007 Super Bowl campaign when they did the very same thing. Coughlin’s 2009-10 teams, however, each faded badly down the stretch when missing the playoffs both years (2-9 vs. line last 11 in 2009, 2-6 vs. spread last eight in 2010).

Coughlin’s teams, however, have been consistent overachievers as an underdog, standing a stellar 22-8 vs. the mark when receiving points since 2007. Moreover, they are 32-15 vs. the number away from their pair of home stadiums in the Meadowlands since the same 2007 campaign.

Within the NFC East, note covers in eight of the last 10 meetings vs. Dallas, but spread losses in seven of their last eight vs. the Eagles.

Summary: Coughlin has pulled a couple of major surprises in the past five seasons, with the similarity of stretch drives in both 2007 and 2011 into the playoffs and concluding with last-minute wins over the Patriots in the Super Bowl, almost eerie. Having said that, we don’t expect the G-Men to repeat, but suspect that the oddsmakers and wagering public are downgrading Coughlin’s team a bit much perhaps because of the schedule (it’s tough, sure) and past letdowns after Super Bowl seasons. But because the Giants seem to be an afterthought in the championship discussion, Coughlin is amazingly again flying a bit under the radar (where he has done his best work in the past), and we are not sure about “fading” the G-Men as are so many others.

This is still a potential playoff team and contender in the NFC, with Coughlin and Eli having risen to the occasion when least expected in the past. Underestimate these guys again at your own peril.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
07/31/2012 03:07 PM

Philadelphia Eagles Draw Favorites Tag In NFC East

Philadelphia is being listed with a 10½-win total for NFL bettors to consider.

When is it not football season in Philadelphia?

Never, especially if you’re a devotee of venerable sports radio WIP, where Birds fans vent on the airwaves 12 months of the year. Indeed, the sports pulse of the Delaware Valley can often be measured in the venom Eagles fans spill on Angelo Cataldi or Howard Eskin’s daily shows.

And since the Phillies, who could be expected to deflect some of the talk away from the Eagles in August and September the past few years, are instead plumbing the depths of the NL East this summer, it’s already football season at WIP.

The popular topic these days on WIP is Eagles coach Andy “Dang It” Reid, who begins his 14th season in charge of the Birds But after a late-season meltdown in 2010 and missing the playoffs entirely a year ago, some wonder if Reid could be walking on very thin ice (a scary mental picture, if you’ve taken a recent look at Andy) these days.

In fact, rumors have been flying almost annually the past several offseasons that Reid was about to take a job elsewhere in the NFL (San Diego, where Norv Turner amazingly has stayed in the saddle, remains a popular blog topic). And for the first time, Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie admitted in the winter that he had considered replacing Reid after last season.

Change is certainly in the air in Philly after the June announcement that longtime team president Joe Banner will no longer be handling those duties, which also included personnel, contract negotiations, and as resident “capologist” for the franchise. Rest assured Reid took note of Banner’s demotion.

Despite all of this, and recent failures at The Linc, the Eagles are getting lots of respect from the oddsmakers and the wagering public. Perhaps too much. Las Vegas sports books have them favored to win the NFC East where the Birds are priced at 13/10, and they’re a consensus third choice to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC (6/1 at most outlets). Their Super Bowl win price has raised slightly after opening at 10/1 – now 12/1 at most outlets) – but that’s still a lot of respect to give a team that missed the playoffs last year and sprung a lot of leaks in the process.

The season win total at 10½ is also one of the highest in the NFC; only the Packers are listed higher (12½) among NFC teams.

A check of the Don Best NFL odds screen also notes that the Birds have been posted as early 8½-9 point favorites in their September 2 opener at Cleveland, with the total hovering between 41 and 41½, depending upon the outlet.

Of course, some of the optimism is being fueled by the Eagles’ fast finish a year ago, when they won and covered their last four games in dominating fashion to get to 8-8. Which was hardly what was expected in the much-ballyhooed “Dream Team” hype of last summer, but at least the campaign closed on an upbeat note. Along the way a much-maligned defense, which had struggled for most of the fall under first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, finally seemed to hit stride as Philly allowed only 46 points over those last four wins.

Still, defense was the focus in the offseason, especially during the draft when the Eagles went D-D-D with their first three picks. NFC East sources also say that Reid made overtures to ex-Rams head coach and former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo about assuming control of the stop unit in the offseason before committing to Castillo for another campaign.

Castillo, who moved from the offensive side to the “D” last season, looked out of his depth for much of 2011. Some believe the delay of training camp and the lockout through last offseason gave Castillo a late start in his new job and caused some of the adjustment headaches.

Problems were hard to conceal during a 4-8 start. Five blown fourth-quarter leads; linebackers and safeties unable to fill wide running lanes; a leaky secondary despite a strong pass rush. Highly-touted free-agent DB additions Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also struggled with the new schemes.

But with an injured CB Asante Samuel (since traded to the Falcons) sidelined late in the season, Castillo was able to work with this season's cornerback tandem of Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, which allowed Castillo to press his corners more and convince himself to play more man-to-man this fall. Asomugha, in particular, struggled with the zone schemes a year ago after mostly operating in press man-to-man coverage with the Raiders.

The Eagles used the draft to bolster the front line of their aggressive 4-3 base scheme. If rookies Fletcher Cox (DT Mississippi State) and Vinny Curry (DE Marshall) contribute, the D-line could be among the league's best, as it already boasted fierce pass-rushing DEs Jason Babin (18 sacks in 2011) and Trent Cole (11 sacks a year ago). Philly, utilizing DL coach Jim Washburn’s “wide-nine” looks, led the NFL with 50 sacks in 2011.

There was troubling news heading into training camp at Lehigh, however, as DT Mike Patterson remains nowhere near a return to active duty after delicate offseason surgery to repair tangled blood vessels in his brain. Mississippi State rookie Cox will have a chance to play with the first string in Patterson’s absence.

Philadelphia also brought in DeMeco Ryans via trade from Houston and added young talent at linebacker, including 2nd-round draftee Mychal Kendricks (Cal), whom Castillo thinks can be an effective blitzer, to turn that position group around.

Reid, rather quietly, also added defensive coach Todd Bowles (who served as Miami’s interim head coach down the stretch last season) as DB coach, and sources suggest that Bowles serves as a nice backup for Reid should the “D” again struggle with Castillo’s concepts this fall. Too many jobs are on the line for Castillo to continue learning on the job this season; another slow start by the "D” and Bowles likely moves into Castillo’s place before the campaign slips away.

Meanwhile, Year 3 of the Michael Vick experiment at QB continues this fall. And like Reid, Castillo and various others within the organization, Vick’s job is also on the line; the Birds are only on the hook for one more year of Vick’s mega-contract.

The pressure will be on Vick to cut down on his turnovers, as he was the main culprit in Philly’s 38 giveaways last season, the second-worst total in the league. Along the way, Vick tossed 14 picks and lost four of 10 fumbles. Moreover, five of those giveaways came in the red zone. Vick was also near the bottom of league stats in third-down passing, fourth-quarter passing and passing against the blitz.

Vick’s durability also is in question as his reckless style of play has resulted in him missing seven games over the past two seasons due to torn rib cartilage and broken rubs. Ex-Northwestern QB Mike Kafka, who knows offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense by rote, has flashed some upside in the past, and likely replaces the departed Vince Young as Vick’s caddy. Ex-Bill QB Trent Edwards was added in the offseason and well-regarded Arizona rookie Nick Foles was plucked in the third round of the draft, giving Reid plenty of options.

Reid was also able to keep a couple of important free-agents in tow, re-signing Pro Bowl WR DeSean Jackson and LG Evan Mathis. As for Jackson, he and Jeremy Maclin provide a dangerous vertical-threat combo and combined for 121 catches and nine TDs a year ago. Brent Celek (62 catches in 2011) remains a state-of-the-art tight end.

Meanwhile, the new star of the offense is unquestionably ex-Pitt RB LeSean McCoy, who rumbled for 1,309 yards rushing and a league-best 17 rush TDs a year ago. Dual-threat McCoy also caught 48 passes a year ago.

The OL, which looked to be a question mark heading into last season and indeed struggled for much of the campaign, emerged as a strength late in 2011. Keeping free-agent Mathis in the fold was considered a crucial off-season move for the front office.

Spread-wise, Reid’s teams have not proven as reliable lately as they were earlier in his Philly tenure. The Birds have covered just eight of their last 21 as host since late in the 2009 season. And Reid, who for many years was a solid underdog play, is only 5-7 as the “short” since 2009.

On the road, however, Reid has continued to deliver good spread value, standing 29-18-1 vs. the line away from The Linc since late in the 2006 campaign. Reid is also 7-1 vs. the line in his eight spread decisions vs. hated NFC East foe the Giants, whose recent successes, despite the lack of success lately vs. the Eagles, continue to gnaw at Philly fans and callers to WIP who still can’t accept that Eli Manning might be a good quarterback...or close to as good as their Michael Vick.

Summary: There are no excuses that will be acceptable for Reid and much of the Eagle organization that likely undergoes a thorough housecleaning if the Birds disappoint as they did a year ago. We’re not sure we share the optimism of so many who believe all the pieces are in place for a title run, simply because we’re not convinced Vick is steady or durable enough to lead the charge. There are also questions about a defense that needs to display more consistency for coordinator Juan Castillo.

Sure, when the Eagles look good, they’re really good, but this hardly appears to be a Super Bowl contender to us. For the moment, we’d suggest short-selling on Philadelphia rather than buying. And then sit back and listen to the real fireworks on WIP if the Eagles disappoint again this fall.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
cnotes Posts:24391 Followers:32
08/01/2012 07:20 PM

Redskins Up Against It In Rough NFC East Division

Shanahan must be feeling comfortable in his job.

Why, you say?

Three seasons into his job as coach of the Washington Redskins, working for a noted tempestuous owner (Dan Snyder), and yet to secure a playoff berth, “The Shan” is entrusting his 2012 fortunes to a rookie quarterback.

Perhaps Shanahan believes that Snyder will permit one more mulligan at FedEx Field after last year’s 5-11 disappointment that was fueled by...quarterback shortcomings. Maybe The Shan gets himself an extra year of grace by simply going with the rookie.

Of course, we’re not talking about an ordinary rookie quarterback. Baylor’s Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy last year and was the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL Draft. But he’s still a rookie quarterback, and precious few of those hit the ground running.

Maybe Shanahan knows something we don’t. Oddsmakers and the wagering public, however, don’t seem to be buying what he is peddling.

Las Vegas sports books aren’t expecting an miracles at FedEx Field, with the majority of them posting a season total of 6½ wins on the 'Skins. Washington is also a consensus pick to once again bring up the rear in the NFC East, with division odds quoted at 10/1 at many Vegas wagering outlets.

For those wanting to talk a walk on the wild side, the Redskins are being offered as high as 30/1 to win the NFC and 60/1 to win the Super Bowl.

Any takers?

Intriguingly, the 'Skins will be opening the regular season against an angry New Orleans side that will be proceeding minus suspended head coach Sean Payton after the “Bounty-gate” scandal erupted in the offseason. Prices have already been posted on that September 9 clash at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome; the Don Best odds screen notes that the Saints are priced from 9½-10 point favorites, with the total bouncing between 50 to 50½.

Shanahan, however, is no fool, and must believe that putting his eggs in RG III’s basket is a worthwhile risk. Of course, he also thought that it was a good idea to go to war with journeymen Rex Grossman and John Beck as his quarterback alternatives. That backfired like so much legislation on nearby Capitol Hill as neither provided consistent leadership last fall when the Washington ranked near the bottom of NFC stats, placing 14th among 16 conference entries in total offense.

Shan’s quarterbacks were also turnover machines last season, particularly the error-prone Grossman, who accounted for 20 of the team’s 24 interceptions.

RG III can’t be any worse, can he?

Griffin cost the 'Skins dearly, too, as they traded first round picks not only last April but in both 2013 and 2014, plus their second-round pick three months ago, to the Rams simply to move up four sports to get the Heisman winner. Griffin is likely to be close to a one-man draft for the Redskins, unless SMU G Josh LeRibeus or Texas LB Keenan Robinson make an impact. They drafted another QB in the later rounds as well, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, although he is unlikely to see the field this fall unless Griffin is hurt.

RG III had already been named the starter before a late-May OTA in which he more resembled an undrafted rookie than a Heisman winner. Griffin’s humble attitude, however, seems to have already won over most of his teammates, although the hype and the nickname have already become targets for opponents who can’t wait to put the Heisman winner in his place this fall.

Griffin, however, already is being compared favorably to Michael Vick, the king of the pass-run quarterbacks, by none other than Redskins DE London Fletcher.

"The speed will definitely shock you," said Fletcher to the Washington Post. "He has a rocket of an arm. He has the right mentality in terms of his preparation. When you have a quarterback who can make plays when it doesn't go exactly as it's designed to go, who can buy time and is a threat to run the football and make plays outside the pocket, defensively you're kind of always on your heels."

Still, even in a best-case scenario, expect RG III to be a work in progress throughout the fall. Although a handful of recent rookie QBs – Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton immediately come to mind – have led their teams into the playoffs, all were doing so in somewhat bulletproof offensive systems which didn’t begin to expand until those QBs were beyond their rookie year. The track record for rookie QBs making that sort of immediate impact remains spotty at best.

As Griffin tries to master The Shan’s version of the West Coast (coordinated by the coach’s son Kyle), the Redskins attempted to provide some help in the offseason by adding a couple of new receiving targets, in particular ex-Colt Pierre Garcon, who cost Washington $42.5 million in a multi-year deal and figures, at least according to Shanahan, as an upgrade from vet returnee Santana Moss or the departed Jabar Gaffney. Ex-49er Joshua Morgan was also brought in as a new receiving target.

Garcon could be a revelation, however, hinting at bigger things to come when routinely torching CB DeAngelo Hall in early camp drills.

Griffin should also have reliable targets at tight end if the Redskins can keep Fred Davis (back in the fold after a substance-related four-game league suspension at the end of last season) and Chris Cooley (felled by injuries again last year).

Shanahan also has higher hopes for his ground game that suffered a negative blow last October when versatile Tim Hightower, who had started five of the first six games last season, went down with a torn ACL. Ex-Nebraska slammer Roy Helu and Evan Royster ran with occasional flair in the second half of the season (each recording multiple 100-yard rushing games) and provide serviceable, if not spectacular, backfield options.

The Shan additionally expects the forward wall to be more cohesive this fall if LG Kory Lichtensteiger is fully recovered from a torn right ACL suffered last October. Lichtensteiger, however, is being brought around slowly in training camp, and lingering hip issues have put the availability of LG Jamaal Brown into some doubt for the opener vs. the Saints. Such injury concerns in the earliest days of training camp are rarely harbingers of good things to come.

The 'Skins played playoff-quality defense for much of last season, when the stop unit was often forced into uncomfortable situations by the mistake-prone tendencies of Grossman and the offense. Jim Haslett’s platoon will again deploy in 3-4 alignments and addressed a possible shortcoming during the free-agency period when inking ex-Bears strong safety Brandon Meriweather, who fills a gap created by LaRon Landry’s departure to the Jets.

Last year provided a coming-out party of sorts for OLB Brian Orapko, the former Texas star who blossomed into a big-play threat when recording a team-high nine sacks. It was also much the same for Nebraska rookie DT Adam Carriker, who played all 988 snaps in 2011 and recorded 7½ sacks along with forcing four fumbles.

Indeed, a robust front seven returns intact, with aforementioned LB London Fletcher having re-signed in the offseason. Fletcher led Washington in tackles last season.

The secondary, however, remains a bit unsettled. The previously-mentioned DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson were somewhat inconsistent on the corners last season. Besides Meriweather, free agents Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson have been signed to compete for jobs at the safety positions that were thinned by Landry’s free-agent departure.

Special teams-wise, Shanahan is hoping that vet PK Neil Rackers, who hit on 32-of-38 FG attempts for the Texans last season, proves an upgrade over Graham Gano, who saw five of his FG attempts blocked.

Pointspread-wise, Shanahan has historically been a solid underdog recommendation back to his days in Denver, although the 'Skins were only 6-6 as the “short” in 2011; Shan is 14-11 in that role since arriving two years ago.

One positive pointspread note from the past two seasons has been success vs. Dallas, against whom the Redskins have covered all four meetings. Washington also swept both meetings straight up against the Super Bowl champion Giants a year ago.

Washington has trended ‘under’ (19-13) during Shanahan’s first two seasons.

Summary: The Redskins live in a pretty tough neighborhood in the NFC East, and making a breakthrough with a rookie QB is not usually recommended. Perhaps, however, RG III is simply the exception to the rule, and if anything he is used to challenges after helping put the moribund Baylor program on the map. But if Griffin can limit his mistakes (something Rex Grossman couldn’t do a year ago), and the supporting cast on offense can stay healthy, the Redskins will hardly be cannon-fodder, especially with that playoff-level defense.

If Griffin proves serviceable, it would be no surprise to see the 'Skins emerge as an interesting underdog play (as has been the case often in Shanahan’s career). But unless Washington moves to the NFC West, we doubt the playoff drought (which extends to 2007) will end this season.

Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: