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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 9:17 AM

There's no wilder divisional race in the National Football League than this donnybrook that's erupted inside the NFC East where Washington, Dallas and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants each charge into Week 16 play with identical 8-6 SU (straight-up) records.

Okay, so the way they've gotten here has been the real story as the left-for-dead Redskins have won five in a row - that's the longest active winning streak in the NFC (but still four games behind Denver's current nine-game winning streak) while the Cowboys sport a season-best three-game SU winning streak that includes last weekend's had-to-have-it overtime home win against mistake-prone Pittsburgh. And than there's the Jints who've crumbled badly in recent weeks with four losses in their last six games and - please take note - two of those defeats came at the hands of AFC North teams like the one the Giants will play here this weekend (see the 31-13 loss at Cincinnati back in Week 10 play and the 24-20 home loss to Pittsburgh in Week 9 action).

No doubt the fates/fortunes of NFL teams can turn quickly in this league where they play for pay but how about we take a moment to show what the NFC East standings looked like half a season ago - that's after Week 8 ... Do you remember that it looked like this?

The NFC East - Post-Week 8 Standings:

TEAM WON LOST TIE PCT
NY Giants 6 2 0 .750
Dallas 3 4 0 .428
Philadelphia 3 4 0 .428
Washington 3 5 0 .375

Or, as the Giants like to call it, "the good old days"! It's been a wild few weeks in what many folks still consider the most competitive division in all the NFL and now here's a game-by-game preview of what's on tap here in NFL Week 16 for the NFC East squads:

NEW ORLEANS (6-8) at DALLAS (8-6) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Wonder how many close-ups the Fox cameras will give us of loud-mouth Cowboys owner Jerry Jones here on this Sunday-before-Christmas:

Hey, we must admit to (at times) enjoying the quick snap-shots of "JJ" looking glum after a colossal Cowboys mistake but the fact of the matter is Dallas QB Tony Romo has been doing lots of right things these days - especially in the fourth quarter -- and that injury-ravaged defense is making just enough big plays to keep the 'Boys riding high.

Hey, did you realize that Dallas has surrendered just 20 total second-half/overtime points in the recent back-to-back wins at Cincinnati and versus Pittsburgh and that's amazing stuff considering the Cowboys defense has been missing up to six starters at times in recent weeks.

If the Cowboys won't to avoid stubbing their collective toes here, than some pass rush heat on Saints signal-caller Drew Brees is a must - remember despite this nightmarish season, the New Orleans quarterback leads the league with 36 TD passes and he's fresh off a 307-yard, four-TD showing in last week's 41-0 win over Tampa Bay.

Is there more fourth-quarter Romo-to-WR Dez Bryant (10 TD receptions this year) magic on tap here?

Spread Notes - Dallas is a sub-par 6-8 ATS (against the spread) this season and that includes a rotten 1-6 spread mark at home where the Cowboys are a collective 6-17 versus the vig since the start of the 2010 campaign (that's a .261 winning percentage, folks!). Meanwhile, New Orleans is a dead even but vig-losing 7-7 ATS this year and the Saints are just 5-7 odds-wise as underdog sides while dating back to the start of 2009.

THE LAST 3 GAMES FOR THE COWBOYS
(Note home teams are in CAPS)

Week # FAV SPREAD DOG RESULT
Week #15 Pittsburgh - 1 DALLAS DALLAS 27-24 (ot)
Week #14 CINCINNATI - 3.5 Dallas Dallas 20-19
Week #13 DALLAS - 10 Philadelphia DALLAS 38-33

 

WASHINGTON (8-6) at PHILADELPHIA (4-10) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The only "pure" divisional game inside the NFC East this weekend takes place at the only venue that surely won't be part of the playoff mix - the Philly Eagles and their massive problems were long ago removed from post-season contention but could head coach Andy Reid's final home game as Birds' boss-man spoil the fun that the Washington Redskins are having these days?

No doubt while talk all week has centered around Washington's rookie quarterbacks - will Robert Griffin III get the green light here or will fellow first-year slinger Kirk Cousins again get the starting nod? - the underlying theme here should be about the Redskins' defense that needs to get pressure on Philadelphia rookie QB Nick Foles (1,354 yards passing with 5 TDs in five game starts plus relief roles). Remember the 'Skins battered Philly 31-6 back on November 18th when Foles completed less than 50 percent of his passes - that's 21-of-46 completions - with two INTs.

One other item from that Week 11 win by Washington:

The aforementioned Griffin rushed 12 times for 84 yards in that tilt and threw four scoring strikes and that was coming off a bye and now here - providing he does play - "RG3" is coming off a weeklong layoff again.

Spread Notes - Washington's 9-5 against the Las Vegas prices this year and that includes a current five-game spread winning streak. In all, the 'Skins are a perfect 4-and-oh spreadwise in divisional play this year and they're 12-4 ATS in NFC East play the past two-plus seasons. Philadelphia enters this NFC East bash at an ugly 3-10-1 vig-wise this season but the Eagles are 10-5-1 ATS against divisional foes the past two-plus seasons.
 
THE LAST 3 GAMES FOR THE REDSKINS

Week # FAV SPREAD DOG RESULT
Week #15 CLEVELAND - 4.5 Washington Washington 38-21
Week #14 WASHINGTON - 2.5 Baltimore WASHINGTON 31-28 (ot)
Week #13 New York Giants - 2.5 WASHINGTON WASHINGTON 17-16

 

NEW YORK GIANTS (8-6) at BALTIMORE (9-5) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Everyone in/around Gotham City wants to "turn back the clock" and make this 2011 again with the hopes that Tom Coughlin's club can run off a flurry of wins - but with an aerial game that's completely out of whack and a pass rush that's gone nearly invisible it's been ultra-tough sledding for the Giants.

In fact, note that QB Eli Manning and Company have been held to 20 points or less in four of the team's last six games but maybe playing an equally-slumping Ravens team that figures to be without LB Ray Lewis and maybe even LB Terrell Suggs - the latter was really in major pain in last weekend's 34-17 home loss against Denver - could be what the doctored ordered for an NYG team that is getting frustrated and starting to point fingers.

Is it really possible that this Giants pass rush has just 32 sacks this year with DL Jason Pierre-Paul stuck on 6 ½ sacks now for the past five weeks?

Baltimore could throw a major monkey wrench into the NFC East while helping its own cause here but you think new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell knows he needs to get the ball in RB Ray Rice's hands on third-down plays? Rice never touched the ball on third down in last week's loss to the Broncos ... really!

Spread Notes - The Giants are 6-7-1 spreadwise so far this 2012 season and that includes a 3-3-1 spread mark on the road (and note last year's G-men registered a solid 8-3 ATS away mark). Meanwhile, Baltimore is 5-8-1 ATS this season and the Ravens stagger into this Week 16 tilt on a three-game spread losing skid but remember John Harbaugh's crew lost five straight to the number earlier this season.
 
THE LAST 3 GAMES FOR THE GIANTS

Week # FAV SPREAD DOG RESULT
Week #15 ATLANTA - 1 NY Giants ATLANTA 34-0
Week #14 NY GIANTS - 4.5 New Orleans NY GIANTS 52-27
Week #13 NY Giants - 2.5 WASHINGTON WASHINGTON 17-16

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will light it up with the NFL Week 16 card that begins on Saturday night with Side/Totals Winners on the Atlanta Falcons at the Detroit Lions plus get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day too - and make sure to climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper to cash in big with all the College Football Bowl Games that just began last weekend as Jim Hurley cashed big with both Nevada (+8 ½) over Arizona and Utah State (- 10) over Toledo!

Get tonight's Beef O'Brady's Bowl game between Central Florida vs. Ball State and than on Saturday it's that afternoon twin bill with the New Orleans Bowl at 12 noon ET (that's UL-Lafayette vs. East Carolina) and the Las Vegas Bowl (that's Boise State vs. Washington) at 3:30 p.m. ET. Hey, there's still 32 remaining Bowl Games -- and so cash with 'em now and don't get caught out in the cold! Check in with us on Game Days either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winners and note the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

 

COLLEGE HOOPS NOTEBOOK

Hey, don't sleep on the college hoops gang this holiday weekend -

TEXAS (7-4) - Maybe there is a pulse when it comes to this 2011-12 Longhorns crew that battered 4 ½-point favorite North Carolina 85-67 this past Wednesday night as Sheldon McClellan poured in 18 points amidst the swirling reports that G Myck Kabongo has been suspended for the season. No doubt Texas head coach Rick Barnes must do everything in his power now to keep this Big 12 team comprised of 10 freshmen/sophomores on the proverbial straight-and-narrow and here comes another huge test with Saturday's game at #20 Michigan State. If the 'Horns - who held Carolina to 21-of-67 made field goals (that's 31.3 percent) - can play more in-your-grill defense here against Spartans point guard Keith Appling (15 ppg and 4.2 apg) - than this espn2 tilt (tip time is 2 p.m. ET) could get interesting.

#8 FLORIDA (8-1) - If you're looking for a TV alternative to Saturday night's NFL Week 16 game between the Atlanta Falcons at the Detroit Lions, than try out the mighty Gators' hoop squad at Kansas State (8-2). Billy Donovan's squad is holding opponents to an NCAA-best 49.6 points a game this season and now it is starting to look as if Florida G Mike Rosario (20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in Wednesday night's walk-in-the-park 82-43 win against Southeastern Louisiana) is "getting it" after some rough patches following his transfer from Rutgers a couple of years back. The Gators here need fellow G Kenny Boynton (just 1-of-7 FG shooting in the Wednesday win) to heat up on the road and take note that K-State is one of the country's best perimeter teams and slowing down or stopping State's Rodney McGruder (13.3 ppg) is key here in this espn2 tilt from not-so-neutral Kansas City. Note tip time here on Saturday night is 8 p.m. Eastern.

NOTE: Get more NCAA Football Bowl Previews this weekend and next week right here in Jim Sez -- and watch for more NFL Week 16 coverage too!


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