Re-Visiting NFC Win Totals

The firepower of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense should get them 'over' the top.

Earlier this week I re-visited win totals for the AFC and today I’m doing the same for the NFC. You’ll note a couple of significant changes. Let’s get to it.


Dallas 8.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Over, Today: Under I really thought this could be the year that Dallas could put it together and make the playoffs but I’ve seen too many issues offensively in the preseason.

New York 9 (-115 over/-115 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under The Giants backfield is a mess with Andre Brown down with a broken leg for the next 4-6 weeks. I’m not sure there enough behind the front four defensively either.

Philadelphia 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under I think Michael Vick will have a bounce-back year but I worry about his health and the shots he’ll take in this offense. The defense is a major concern as well.

Washington 8.5 (+105 over/-135 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over I think the ‘Skins are the class of the division on both sides of the ball. RGIII will learn to play smarter and the defense is much improved from last year.


Chicago 8.5 (-120 over/-110 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under The Bears could have two rookies starting on the O-line and you can’t replace the leadership of Brian Urlacher. Cutler is in a contract year and is just too up and down for my liking.

Detroit 8 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Even, Today: Over The Lions suffered from some really bad luck last season and lost a lot of close games. The front four has to stay healthy for the defense to be effective. I’m drinking the kool-aid with Detroit.

Green Bay 10.5 (-115 over/-115 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over Green Bay has a stable of capable running backs now and JerMichael Finley has had an excellent preseason. The team will overcome any defensive short-comings with a big offense.

Minnesota 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Under, Today: Over The Vikings can go only as far as Christian Ponder can take them with all due respect to Adrian Peterson. The defense will be OK, but health will be huge on both sides of the ball. I’ll take them to get to eight wins.

Ryan and the Falcons should reach double-digit win totals again this year.


Atlanta 10 (Even over/-110 over) First Time: Over, Today: Over The only way this team doesn’t win more than ten games is an injury to Matt Ryan. Other concern is getting to the QB which must get better. Too many weapons offensively not to like this team.

Carolina 7 (-135 over/+105 under) First Time: Under, Today: Even Cam Newton will be better this year and the addition of Ted Ginn, Jr. will help offensively and on special teams. The division and cross-conference schedule is a bear though.

New Orleans 9 (-145 over/+115 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over With an improved defense and an offense with weapons galore, this team will ride Drew Brees to a big season on what I call the “Sean Payton Revenge Tour.”

Tampa Bay 7.5 (-130 over/Even under) First Time: Over, Today: Over This is the last chance for Josh Freeman or else he’ll be looking for work elsewhere in 2014. The Bucs will ride Doug Martin and an improved defense to get to eight or nine wins.


Arizona 5.5 (Even over/-130 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over The Cards’ defense will be opportunistic with a lot of good athletes making plays. Carson Palmer will do well in Bruce Arians’ offense if he can stay healthy behind a weak O-line.

San Francisco 11 (-120 over/-110 under) First Time: Under, Today: Even The Niners will be very good again but there is just something that troubles me and I can’t put my finger on it. With an improved division and several trips East I think they win 11.

Seattle 10.5 (-135 over/+105 under) First time: Under, Today: Over I think 11 is the number for the Seahawks who will do good things on both sides of the ball but I think their maturity in some areas is still lacking. Getting home-field advantage should be their number one priority.

St. Louis 7.5 (-130 over/Even under) First Time: Over, Today: Under I’m just not sold on Sam Bradford and I have no idea who will run the ball for the Rams. The defense will get to the quarterback but the lack of consistency on offense worries me.

Top Five Offenses in the NFL

The 2013 NFL regular season starts this Thursday with teams hoping to reach the Super Bowl in February. Most football pundits will tell you that defense wins Super Bowls and most would be right, but you need to score points if you are going to win games as well.

Offenses have changed over the past 10 years with teams spreading out their receivers to open up opposing defenses. The running game is still deemed vitally important, but today’s offense leaders are quarterbacks who can hit receivers in the flats, over the middle, down the sideline or over the top.

Here are the top 5 Offenses to start the 2013 season.

Topping my list is the Denver Broncos. When Denver signed Peyton Manning in 2012, they were unsure what he could still do as a quarterback. He quickly put the fears and doubts to rest and led his offense to a No. 4 ranking in the league. The Broncos averaged nearly 398 yards per game on offense and during the offseason got even stronger.

Denver signed Wes Welker away from New England, giving Manning another weapon to throw to. His presence will take pressure off Demaryius Thomas and Erick Decker on the outside.

The running game will be led by rookie Montee Ball who will take over for the departed Willis McGahee. Manning makes any offense better than it actually is, but the players he has around him this season, could make this team unstoppable.

In second place offensively are the Atlanta Falcons. Quarterback Matt Ryan led the offense to an average of 369 yards per game. He won his first playoff game and signed a huge contract during the offseason. The Falcons have the best group of receivers of any team in the NFL with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez at tight end.

The Falcons added veteran running back Steven Jackson to the team, which will provide a much needed complementary running game to Ryan’s passing offense.

In third place, amongst NFL offenses are the New Orleans Satins led by Drew Brees. Last season the Saints had a difficult year, but look to bounce back. The Saints however, ranked No. 2 overall in offense with 411 yards per game. Brees is one of the league’s best quarterbacks and has good receivers like Lance Moore and Marques Colston along with Jimmy Graham at tight end to throw to. Their running game is sporadic at best. However, look for a strong season for the Saints offensively.

Fourth place goes to the Detroit Lions. The Lions were the No. 3 ranked team overall last season with 408 yards per carry. Any team with Matthew Stafford at quarterback and Calvin Johnson at wide receiver will be dangerous. Johnson will gain between up to 2,000 yards in any season, while Stafford will throw for 4,500 or more. With the addition of all-purpose back Reggie Bush, the Lions will be putting up large numbers on the score board this season.

Most people will think the fifth place choice goes to the New England Patriots who last year led the NFL in total offense, but my fifth place goes to the San Francisco 49ers. With Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, the 49ers have a dual pass/run threat that most other teams do not enjoy. Add to that veteran Frank Gore in the backfield and receivers Vernon Davis and Anguan Boldin and you have a recipe for success. A player who could surprise is AJ Jenkins.

Alabama Can’t Lose National Title Shot

I just can't see Saban and the Tide losing more than once if at all in 2013.

Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide have rolled into Atlanta this weekend for their season opener against Virginia Tech with tremendous aspirations for 2013.

Alabama is going for what amounts to ‘unchartered territory’ as they go for their third straight national title and fourth in five years. I’ve looked over their schedule and their roster and I just don’t see how this team is not back in the BCS Championship game. The Tide has arguably their best offensive weapons under Saban. Quarterback A.J.McCarron is back and already has two national titles under his belt. Running back T.J. Yeldon returns after a 1,000 yard plus campaign and so does wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Defensively, the Crimson Tide is extremely deep and talented as always. This defense has shot at being one of the best under Saban and that’s saying a lot considering some of the great defenses that have already left there mark in Tuscaloosa.

McCarron is the perfect QB for the Tide's system.

The schedule is not as difficult as it could be for a team playing in the Southeastern Conference. Once they play the Hokies, the Tide has non-conference dates with Colorado State, Georgia State and Chattanooga. This is not exactly a murderer’s row of competition here so I see 4-0 in the non-conference schedule.

The conference schedule is about as weak as it gets with the only exception being a game at #7 Texas A&M on September 14th. This game has been circled by Saban since the Aggies and Johnny Manziel gave them their only loss of 2013 and it came at home. Saban has had the game playing on a loop in the Crimson Tide’s weight room and locker room and has had A&M stickers placed on many things inside the weight room as well.

Should the Tide get past the Aggies in College Station, the rest of the conference schedule has few if any scares. They have only three more road games following their second game at Texas A&M and those games are at Kentucky, at Mississippi State and at Auburn in the season finale.

Bama will get Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU at home. Granted, LSU and Ole Miss could present problems for Alabama but let’s keep in mind too that they got the easiest draw from the East Division they probably could have. They have no Georgia, no South Carolina and no Florida on the schedule and that’s not something to dismiss.

If there is one area that concerns me it has to be the inexperience of the offensive line. Alabama saw Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack all get drafted into the National Football League this past April. Don’t cry for Saban and the Tide though because it isn’t like they are starting five freshmen along the line.

The current depth chart lists two seniors, a junior and two sophomores. All of which are already pro prospects by the way. Whenever you have a relatively new offensive line the best thing you can do for their confidence and ability is to run the football and that’s exactly what I see the Tide doing.

That gameplan fits the skill set of McCarron perfectly as well. Teams will be forced to bring extra guys into the box to stop the run and that’s when McCarron will strike down the field. That’s what makes Bama so difficult to deal with offensively.

Obviously I can’t account for injuries but based on past BCS rankings’ history, the Tide will need to lose two games to fall out of contention for the title game. Even then, depending upon the rest of the country, they might still be in it.

I just can’t see this team losing more than one game in 2013 and that should be more than enough for them to get back to the BCS Title game.

Top Five Defenses in the NFL

Just a generation ago, the defense in the NFL was characterized by beating the offensive man to the line, aggressive coverage’s and simple pattern read concepts. Great defenses are always about talent, but even more today, they are about schemes.

In the NFL of today, defenses make complete positional rotations, while playing nickel or dime close to 50% of the time, trying to counter offenses that are looking to stretch the field with plays and schemes not seen before.

Therefore, head coaches and defensive coordinators have had to come up with new defense schemes and find the best players to fill those positions.

Five of the best of today’s defenses follows

The Seattle Seahawks were the top ranked defense in points allowed last season in the NFL and fourth in yards allowed. The Seahawks defense is young and aggressive with a great secondary and speed on the defensive line. The Seahawks will use 3-4 schemes, while sometimes lining up in 5-2 schemes. The secondary duo of Richard Sherman and Brendan Browner, formerly of the CFL, is the best in the league. There are some nagging injuries to the defensive line, but this defense is still the league’s best.

San Francisco had carried the torch of having the league’s best defense before Seattle’s rise. The 49ers defense is still in the top two overall with as much talent on the line as any other NFL team. The right side features Justin Smith and Aldon Smith. Last season Aldon Smith recorded 19.5 sacks in only his second season, but did not have many after Justin Smith was hurt. The only question mark on the defense is the secondary. Dashon Goldson the team’s safety last season is now in Tampa Bay and a rookie will be his replacement.

What might come as a surprise to some is the defense of the Green Bay Packers. The defense has great talent on the front line and added to that when they drafted Datone Jones. Add Jones to a front seven that includes Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and B.J. Raji and opponents will have a tough time running the ball and be pressured all game when throwing it. The secondary is strong with Casey Hayward returning from his rookie season that included six interceptions.

The Houston Texans with J.J. Watt are one of the NFL’s top defenses. He led the NFL with 20.5 sacks last season, which is an incredible amount for someone who is constantly double-teamed. Brian Cushman, who missed 11 games last season returns and his presence, will relieve some pressure from Watt. The secondary is strong with Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph returning and the addition of Ed Reed.

No list of top defenses would be complete without the Chicago Bears. Brian Urlacher has retired, but Jon Bostic is a talented replacement. However, with a new head coach and defensive coordinator, the defense might look different, but its talented secondary led by Charles Tillman will give opposing quarterbacks a nightmare. Julius Peppers remains the top player up front, but will have help from Henry Melton and Corey Wootton.

Revisiting AFC Win Totals

Because of the weak division, I think Schaub and the Texans go 'over' their win total.

Back in early July, I made my selections on team win totals for the teams in American Football Conference. With the preseason ending tonight, I’m revisiting those picks and making changes where necessary. There aren’t a ton of reversals but the ones I have switched around are very notable.


Buffalo Bills 6.5 (+110 over/-140 under) First time: Under, Today Under The Bills quarterback situation is an absolute mess with Kolb out indefinitely and Manuel not ready for the opener.

Miami Dolphins 8 (Even over/130 under) First time: Over, Today: Over We’ve already seen the Mike Wallace that can be both electrifying and uninvolved through the preseason. I’m staying with the over only because of the weak AFC East.

New England 11 (+105 over/-135 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under The Pats will be competitive as long as Belichick and Brady are around and I like the defense, but there are too many holes to like the over.

New York 6.5 (+110 over/-140 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under This is too easy. Their QB issues might be worse than the Bills. Will Rex even survive the season?


Baltimore 8.5 (-135 over/+105 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over I still like the Ravens to get to nine wins because of their offense, but they have tons of guys to replace on both sides.

Cleveland 6 (+135 over/-105 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over I like the Weeden-Turner marriage and I like the defense as well. Could be a surprise team if Richardson is healthy.

Cincinnati 8.5 (-140 over/+110 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over The Bengals have too much talent not to win 10 games. The playoffs may be a different story though.

I don't have a lot of faith that the Steelers can keep Big Ben healthy.

Pittsburgh 9 (-125 over/-105 under) First Time: Over, Today: Under Le’Veon Bell is injured and the offensive line is one of the youngest and weakest in the league. Can’t see Roethlisberger staying healthy behind them.


Houston 10.5 (Even over/-130 under) First Time: Under, Today: Over The AFC South is pretty weak and the Texans will take advantage. They only go as far as Matt Schaub can take them though.

Indianapolis 8.5 (-120 over/-110 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under I think Luck will have a nice season, but the loss of Arians will have an impact as the Colts slip back this year.

Jacksonville 5 (-115 over/-115 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under No quarterback, limited defense and a prima donna wideout spell disaster.

Tennessee 6.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Over, Today: Under I really liked the Titans prior to the start of the preseason but Jake Locker has struggled. With inconsistent QB play, the Titans can’t win regularly.


Denver 11.5 (-110 over/-120 under) First Time: Under, Today: Over I thought the schedule would be tougher for them but now it doesn’t look so bad with teams like the Cowboys and Titans stinking it up. 12 wins should be the number.

Kansas City 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over Andy Reid immediately upgrades this team as does Alex Smith. If they can get decent production from the receivers then I like them even more.

Oakland 5.5 (+110 over/-140 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under It looks like Matt Flynn has lost yet another starting job. Terrelle Pryor will probably get the start week one. That doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in me or anyone else for that matter.

San Diego 7.5 (Even over/-130 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under I think the combination of Rivers with new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will be good, I just don’t know if there is enough talent around to make it work. They have issues on defense as well.

SEC Football Opens with Ole Miss visiting Vandy

The NCAA football season kicks off Thursday and a great matchup will see two up and coming teams from the Southeastern Conference meet in Nashville, Tennessee. The Vanderbilt Commodores will host the Old Miss Rebels, with Ole Miss listed as the favorite by 3 points and the over/under point total resting on 53.5.

Both teams for years were considered doormats in the conference but no longer are thought of as pushovers, as but teams are returning from their best seasons in recent memory.

Last season Vanderbilt had 9 wins to tie a school record and ended the season 9-4 with their best record since becoming a member of the SEC.

The Rebels last season, under first year Head Coach Hugh Freeze turned the program around. Ole Miss ended the season with a winning record of 7-6. Not the most impressive record, but in the two years combined prior to last season the Rebels won a total of 6 games.

Ole Miss used the spread offense last season under Freeze and has most of its starters from last season returning. Last season Ole Miss was 5th in the conference in offense averaging more than 423 yards a game.

Bo Wallace will start at quarterback returning from last season’s 3,000 yards passing and 22 touchdowns as well as 17 interceptions. Ole Miss enters as the favorite even though they are 1-13 in their past 14 conference road games.

Seven of the 11 starters on both sides of the ball return for Vanderbilt. However, their two most valuable players on offense Justin Rogers at quarterback and Zac Stacy at running back are gone. However, Jordan Matthews who caught 94 passes and eight touchdowns will be back to start at wide receiver.

Austyn Carta-Samuels a senior will start for Vandy at quarterback. He has experience in games played as he played most of 2009 and 2010 as the starter.

The Commodores have questions marks on the offensive side of the ball, but have played well on their home field and are usually strong early in the season. Ole Miss has a potent offense.

Take Ole Miss less the 3 points, the Rebels will wear the Commodores down little by little and win by a touchdown.

Top Five Rookies Starting 2013 NFL Season

The NFL season starts in 8 days with a Thursday Night matchup. This season, as is always the case, there are hundreds of rookies hoping to find a way onto an NFL team’s final 53-man roster.

Once there, they hope to make an impact in some way. Even fewer have the confidence and ability to make that impact from day one and have a change of being rookie of the year.

Besides having the determination and talent to prove how good they can play, rookies need the luck of being in the right place at the right time with the right team needing them to fill a need.

If a talented quarterback is drafted to back up a Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, they will get very little opportunity to prove their talent. However, if a good early round pick at running back is given the opportunity to back up a player who is injury prone, then he might get his chance to shine.

Many talented rookies are on NFL rosters, but these five will shine above the rest.

  1. Giovanni Bernard. The Cincinnati Bengals running back was the 37th player drafted overall. In the draft, he was the first running back chosen and will be used often from the start by the Bengals. He will give quarterback Andy Dalton another target out of the backfield and his running skills will help the Bengals become more of a two-pronged offense. He eventually should become the Bengals No. 1 back. With a strong passing game, led by A.J. Green, the Bengals running game could benefit from a spread defense and Bernard will be the benefactor over the long term.
  2. Jarvis Jones with the Pittsburgh Steelers is a talented linebacker ready to make an impact. He recorded 28 sacks over his last two seasons in college and will be an impact player on defense from the first game. Jones could have a half a dozen or more sacks this season and is the favorite for many to win the defensive rookie of the year honors.
  3. Eddie Lacy will have an opportunity to shine at running back for the Green Bay Packers. The offense for the Packers is pass first run second, but with a successful aerial game, the running game should benefit and Lacy could be the Packers eventual No. 1 back. He has had an injury or two already in the preseason, but the bruising back who weighs 230 pounds is tough to bring down. He was penciled in early to be the starter, but with the injuries, he may see limited action early in the season.
  4. Kenbrell Thompkins could become one of Tom Brady’s best targets at wide receiver as the season progresses. Thompkins was not drafted out of Cincinnati and has had attitude and legal problems, but has played well to start the preseason. He did not have many yards receiving his junior and senior seasons but has impressed thus far in New England’s first three preseason games. He could step into the No. 2 receiver role from the start.
  5. Datone Jones is a defensive end drafted by Green Bay who will help the defense of the Packers from day one. He should start, as his speed is something the defense needs. As offenses key on other Packers such as Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, Jones will be able to take advantage and shine. Jones has had an ankle injury in camp, but should overcome that to start in game one against San Francisco. His size and speed will make him a threat against any offensive lineman in the league.

Will He or Won’t He? Aggies Saying Little

I see little reason for Manziel to be on the bench Saturday. I say he plays.

It was reported earlier this week that the NCAA met with Johnny Manziel and his attorney on Sunday for approximately six hours. The details of the lengthy meeting are sparse on content but common sense would tell us most of the discussion was about just whether or not Manziel was paid for signing autographs.

Coming up this weekend, Manziel’s Aggies are scheduled to take the field against Rice. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether or not he will play. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has said repeatedly that he isn’t discussing the matter.

At risk for the Aggies is that they could play Manziel in each game knowing that if the NCAA finds him guilty of accepting money that any game he were to have participated in would be forfeited. With the Aggies scheduled to host #1 Alabama in the third game of the season, his presence on the field will have a tremendous impact on a great many things.

The game for Bama is a revenge game. Manziel and the Aggies gave them their only loss last year and it came in Tuscaloosa. It could also be a game that determines the SEC West division, who plays in the SEC Title game and potentially it could affect the BCS. Oh, and can you imagine the ratings drop if he doesn’t play against Alabama? CBS is probably begging the NCAA to end this investigation immediately for fear of losing the ratings’ bonanza.

Sumlin has been tight-lipped to this point about Manziel's status for Saturday.

Manziel has acknowledged that he signed as many as 5,000 items for numerous brokers but also claims he never received a dime for the duty. Common sense would ask why would anyone do such a thing and not get payment for it. Maybe Manziel is just a swell guy and did it out of the goodness of his heart. Well, it’s possible isn’t it?

I thought Mike Greenberg of ‘Mike and Mike in the Morning’ made an excellent point yesterday. He said the NCAA is used to dealing with kids who come from very little and have even less. They certainly don’t have money for lawyers to help themselves prove their cases. Manziel is different however.

He comes from a wealthy family backed by oil money. Getting a lawyer, and not just any lawyer, is easily within their budget. How will the NCAA, who has botched several recent cases, handle a player with a Heisman Trophy behind him and top lawyers in front of him? The NCAA will tell you publicly that this situation won’t bother them at all but behind closed doors it has to be complicating things.

Remember, right now it’s the word of Manziel versus the word of some brokers. He claims he took no money and they claim he did. If it were cash which is what it is believed to have been, it will be difficult to track those payments.

As is usually the case with the NCAA and their rule book of total ridiculousness, the Aggies should be able to play Manziel without penalty until the investigation is over but that isn’t the case. Once again, the NCAA punishes clean players and their teams instead of waiting for an investigation to run its’ course.

My guess at this time is that Manziel will play on Saturday. The evidence as we know it is thin and the Aggies will take the risk. Should they decide to sit Manziel, junior Matt Joeckel or Freshman Kenny Hill will start against the Owls. Joeckel is a more of a traditional pocket passer while Hill is a dual-threat guy more in the mold of Manziel.

Unless the NCAA has something much bigger than the general public or even the media knows about then I expect Manziel to be on the field Saturday.

College Games I Love This Weekend

Kiffin needs a big season in Los Angeles and it will get started at Hawaii.

Last week I ran down some of the great opening week match-ups in college football but most of the oddsmakers didn’t have quality lines out just yet. That has changed now as our friends at Bovada have lines for all the action coming up on college football’s opening weekend.

I’m not going after games I think will be good games today though. I’m going after games I believe you could really cash in on. There are teams with new coaches and new quarterbacks as well as teams with a whole lot to prove in 2013. Let’s get it started.

USC (-22) at Hawaii – The Warriors were 3-9 last season and finished near the bottom of the FBS in just about every key category. They gave up over 35 points per game (107th), scored just over 21 points per game (102nd) and rushed for 108.6 yards per game (114th).

Did I mention they were ranked 101st in passing? The Trojans will use two quarterbacks on the island this weekend. Both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler will see time. The Trojans will be a team on a mission to prove they were better than last year’s paltry record. I love the Trojans to cover.

Western Michigan (+28) at Michigan State – The Broncos head up I-69 to play a Spartans’ team that lost five games in 2012 by three points or less despite getting very little out of the quarterback position. MSU must replace stud running back Le’Veon Bell but there are a host of contenders.

WMU enters with their top running back and top receiver out of this contest. New Head Coach P.J. Fleck is the youngest in college football and has brought tons of energy to Kalamazoo but rebuilding will take time. The Spartans will cover on Friday night.

I like Lynch and the Huskies at Iowa in the opener.

Northern Illinois (+3) at Iowa – The Huskies come off a 12-2 season in which they shocked the college football world by busting the BCS and going to the Orange Bowl. Head Coach Rod Carey took over for the bowl game after Dave Doeren left for NC State.

Superstar QB Jordan Lynch returns as do several other playmakers on offense, but the defense must replace seven starters. The Hawkeyes are coming off an  embarrassing 4-8 season and the luster that once surrounded Kirk Ferentz has waned. They’ll open with a new QB and pressure facing the defending MAC champion. I love the Huskies here.

Louisiana-Lafayette (+10.5) at Arkansas – The Bret Beilema Era begins in Fayetteville and does so with huge expectations. He must replace starters at both the running back and quarterback positions while re-tooling the offense more in the mold of what he did at Wisconsin.

The Rajun Cajuns will enter as favorites to win the SunBelt Conference. They are coming off a 9-4 season and a bowl victory. Head Coach Mark Hudspeth has lost just eight games in his two season with LL. I won’t call for the upset but I will call for the Cajuns to keep it well within the spread.

BYU (-1) at Virginia – The Cavaliers return seven starters on both offense and defense from a team that struggled behind two different quarterbacks. Both guys are gone and the duty to falls to Sophomore David Watford who played in 2011 but redshirted last season.

The Cougars’ defense was one of the best in the nation last season surrendering just 14 points per game. The offense should be better as last year’s QB injuries were a lot to overcome.

While I see Virginia being an improved team this year, I like BYU in the opener.


NFL’s Top Five Wide Receivers

The passing game has become as or more important for offenses in the NFL as the rushing game. Having a group of wide receivers and tight ends is very important to any quarterback in the league.

Good talented wide receivers are hard to come by. Some are lightning fast, but have hands of stone. Some can catch the ball, but do not like going over the middle.

Therefore, when a quarterback has at least one wide out that is quick, gets off the line easily, is not afraid to run routes to the middle of the field and can get deep, he does not want give him up.

Size is another factor in today’s game. The top 5 receivers in the game today are big, as far as receivers are concerned. Smaller players have great talent, with Wes Welker being a fine example.

Here is my Top Five

  1. Calvin Johnson is probably the easiest player to pick for this list. The Detroit Lions wide out is not only the league’s best receiver, but also one of the best overall players. He works harder than anyone works on his team and has what was mentioned earlier, size. Johnson is 6’5” and weighs 236 pounds, making him a huge target for quarterback Matthew Stafford. He can release well of the line and has learned to beat double coverage. He could stay at the top of this list and many others for years to come.
  2. Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals may have not had his best season last year, but remains high on the list. Last year he caught 71 passes, but was still consistently open through great pass routes and the ability to separate from defenders. Last season he did not have a quarterback who was able to get him the ball on a consistent basis. The addition of Carson Palmer as quarterback will help Fitzgerald this season.
  3. Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons came into the league with lots of hype and has lived up to it all. He was drafted sixth overall in 2011 and has been under the wing of Terry Robiskie the wide receivers coach for Atlanta who has helped him along. Big and strong, he will be at or near the top for many more years.
  4. A.J. Green at Cincinnati is one of the league best wide receivers to watch. He runs exceptional routes, has great hands and knows how to run after catching the ball. He has shown an art of adjusting to wherever the ball is thrown. Green has been the target of double teams and he knows how to separate himself from defenders.
  5.  Demaryius Thomas from Denver became a lucky man when the Broncos signed Peyton Manning prior to last season. Thomas is a big, 6’3”229 pounds, wide out. He is a superb athlete that has become one of Manning’s favorite targets. Thomas is young, but his routes have become much better and he will benefit a great deal from playing with Manning.

Honorable Mention: Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Steve Smith, Percy Harvin