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AFC Teams with New Looks

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/17/2011

The NFL season is approaching. Time for players, coaches and teams to turn over a new leaf. General managers have hired some new coaches, while coaches have added some offensive and defensive assistants to try and improve things. Here's a look at some changes to look for with some teams in preseason.

Ravens: The Ravens are off a 13-6 SU, 14-5 ATS, 10-8 SU, 9-8-1 ATS and 12-4 SU, 8-7-1 ATS seasons under John Harbaugh, which makes him 31-20-2 ATS in the NFL. Expectations are high as a balanced offense adds speedy WR Lee Evans, acquired a proven veteran to play alongside Anquan Boldin. Evans is a seven-year veteran, who is a downfield threat with two 1,000-yard seasons. He is expected to immediately step into the No. 2 role in Baltimore.
The Ravens also drafted Tandon Doss and Torrey Smith in this year’s draft. Torrey is suppose to be the Ravens answer to a deep threat as his speed helped him take the top off the defense in college. Doss was successful with the Indiana Hoosiers in college and has great hands.
Last season the defense picked up Texas LB Sergio Kindle and mammoth Alabama NT Terrence Cody through the draft. I know what you’re thinking: Just what the Baltimore defense needs, more rock-solid talent up front! Sergio Kindle sat out last season after an off the field injury, but he play in his first NFL game this week. Sergio showed a lot of promise coming out of the 2010 draft, but that was soon crushed after he took a stumble down a flight of stairs subsequently fracturing his skull. He was a terrific pass rusher in college.
The Ravens' defense allowed 93.9 yards rushing per game, fifth in the NFL for the second straight, and only looks better. Last season the Ravens were 7-1 SU, 3-5 ATS at home, which puts them at 37-27-2 ATS at home. Note that Baltimore is 35-6 SU/23-16-2 ATS as a home favorite since 2003.

Chargers: Norv Turner has turned San Diego from a run-oriented team under Marty Schottenheimer to a pass-happy one. Despite not making the playoffs last season, the Chargers finished No. 1 in total offense AND defense, which is absolutely astounding. For 2011, WR Vincent Jackson is signed and in camp, unlike a year ago, with second year RB Ryan Matthews getting more time, the No. 12 pick in the 2010 draft (Fresno State).
This should still be a pass-first offense behind QB Phillip Rivers (4,710 yards, 30 TDs, 13 picks). Coach Ron Rivera left as defensive coordinator after taking over late in the 2008 season. Last season San Diego improved from No. 16 to No. 1 in total defense, more of a blitzing team under him. The rest of the defense remains almost fully intact, including pass-rushing virtuoso, Shaun Phillips and newcomer S Bob Sanders. With Phillips on the outside, and the two safeties patrolling the middle, this defense is going to be hell for opposing quarterbacks.
Sports bettors should note that San Diego is 33-24 SU, 32-24-3 ATS on the road the last seven seasons.

Texans: It was a roller coaster season for Houston, starting strong and finishing with the No. 4 offense in the NFL. But the defense was terrible (dead last) and this team finished a disappointing 6-10. For 2011, expectations are high for a strong campaign. QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson lead a high powered attack that was 4th in passing with 259 yards per game and even the ground game was strong with 127.6 yards rushing (7th).
Defensive ends Mario Williams and Connor Barwin are in the process of converting to stand-up outside linebackers in new coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. Phillips is a proponent of blitzing, coming after the QB. Former cornerback Glover Quin enters is the starter at free safety, while Shaun Cody and second-year man Earl Mitchell will try to adapt to nose tackle after previously serving as one-gap penetrators under the old system. The Texans also hope youngster J.J. Watt, the club's first-round selection in April's draft (No. 11 overall from Wisconsin), can make an immediate impact at defensive end, while fellow rookie Brandon Harris joins a secondary bolstered by two key free-agent additions, cornerback Johnathan Joseph and strong safety Danieal Manning. Houston carries an 11-5 run over the total into the new season.

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