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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES AUG. 27

By Joe Nelson
Posted 08/28/2012 at 02:28 PM

With five rookie quarterbacks slated to start the season next week, joining five second year starters, ten of the 32 NFL teams have recently turned over at the game’s premier position. Time will tell if either of the groups can rival some of the great QB classes of past years. The 1983 class with John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly all reaching the Hall of Fame is the standard bearer but there has been a promising start for last year’s group and the rookies are certainly intriguing this season. More recently the 2004 class with Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Phillip Rivers stands out as a great group and that group already has twice as many Super Bowl titles as the famed ’83 group. The notion of rookies struggling at QB has proven to be a myth, even in the postseason, as rookie QBs have won playoff games in three of the last four seasons, though it has been the veterans winning Super Bowls.

           

While injuries often dominate the preseason talk it has oddly become more commonplace to see injuries at the place kicker position. Houston rookie kicker Randy Bullock was lost for the season last week leaving the AFC contender to stick with veteran Shayne Graham. Last year it was Nate Kaeding knocked out trying to make a tackle in the opening week. A recent stuffy found that there has been on average 25 injuries to kickers over the course of the season, and while most are minor, many kickers are older and can take longer to heal. Given how so many games are decided by kicks it is not a position to overlook and now teams may need to have a proven kicker on speed dial to be hired as a weekly fill-in or even to take over duties heading into a playoff run. While the Ravens would never admit it, moving away from Billy Cundiff at the kicking position this week has to be somewhat triggered by his huge missed kick in the AFC championship last season. Just as the Bills couldn’t continue with Scott Norwood, eventually waiving him just over a year after his infamous Super Bowl kick, there is simply too much emotional baggage and history that can bring in doubt in big spots.

           

College football is a short season and with the playoff format still in the future, every week is still an elimination week for most teams. Some of the power teams that start high in the polls can get a mulligan if they lose to a quality foe or lose early enough in the year but for teams like Michigan State and Boise State playing Friday night, the opening game will dramatically change the trajectory of the season. Michigan or Alabama could conceivably survive a loss and stay in the mix. The ACC also has some big early tests with Clemson playing Auburn and NC State facing Tennessee in ACC vs. SEC opening games. With many plugging Florida State as a true national title contender this will be a critical year for the ACC to gain some national respect as they move to even further expansion next season. Right now Pittsburgh and Syracuse don’t look overly helpful to the strength of the football conference although it will add some depth on the basketball court.

           

Among the rotation games this week eight teams are priced as favorites of at least four touchdowns. Dating back to 1980 there have been 17 instances of teams losing outright as that steep of a favorite (not counting games vs. lower division teams). It happened last year with Oklahoma losing to Texas Tech as -29 point favorites at home and all but six of the 17 instances have happened in the last 15 years. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…

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