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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Hey, do you think someone in/around the NFL might like to change the belief that it's good to be "home for the holidays" considering last weekend only seven of the league's 16 home teams covered the all-important Las Vegas price tag?

Maybe having to go on the road two days before Christmas Day helped to "bond" the likes of NFL Week 16 road sides Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Washington, Minnesota and Chicago (among others) who either clinched a playoff berth with a road win or else stayed alive in the post-season hunt with a road win/cover.

We'll see if this slate of games this Sunday that take place between Christmas and New Year's Day will be similarly successful for the road teams.

Now, here are some of our NFL Week 17 quick-hitters:

HOUSTON (12-3) at INDIANAPOLIS (10-5)- 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Welcome back, coach Chuck Pagano- now can your story-of-the-year Indy Colts keep the visiting Texans from nailing down the AFC's #1 playoff seed here? No doubt the Colts- locked in already with the AFC's #5 playoff seed and assured of playing a first-round post-season road game next weekend- are in mere spoiler role here but this is a revenge situation after Houston copped a 29-17 win/cover just two weeks ago at Reliant Stadium- a game that "featured" only one offensive touchdown for Houston.

The Texans are banking on the return-to-health of RB Arian Foster who left last weekend's 23-6 home loss against Minnesota in the third quarter with an irregular heartbeat- and keep in mind Foster rushed for 165 yards on 27 carries in that aforementioned win against the Colts back in Week 15.

A win and Houston's in as the AFC's #1 seed: A Texans loss and than Gary Kubiak's crew needs both Denver and New England to lose to snag the top spot.

CHICAGO (9-6) at DETROIT (4-11)- 1 p.m. ET, Fox
It's simple stuff for the Bears: They need to win here in Motown and have Minnesota lose at home to Green Bay and than Chicago would be back in the post-season for the second time in three years but might this game hinge on whether or not the Bears can score some more points on defense?

Last week's "pick six" by CB Charles "Peanut" Tillman in the 28-13 win at Arizona marked the eighth time this year that Chicago returned an interception for a touchdown- gotta believe mistake-prone Lions QB Matthew Stafford (16 INTs already this year) will be extra careful not to mis-hit his throws here but what's to say some of those alley-oop type passes to record-breaking WR Calvin Johnson won't be heading back the other way?

Key stat for the Bears: The injury-wracked defense ranks in the top 10 in the NFL against both the run (103.7 ypg to rank 9th) and the pass (211.2 ypg to rank 6th).

GREEN BAY (11-4) at MINNESOTA (9-6)- 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
The folks in/around the nation's capital may disagree but this figures to be the real "game of the day" considering what's at stake:

Hey, on the one hand here's the GB Packers who had their Week 3 game in Seattle stolen away by the dopey replacement officials and yet after that 1-2 (and 2-3) SU (straight-up) start Mike McCarthy's club could seize the NFC's #2 playoff seed and the first-round bye that goes with it ... well done, Pack men!

Conversely, a Vikings win here pushes Minny into the post-season and who really thought that possible when Leslie Frazier's squad was sitting there at 6-6 after the 23-14 loss at Lambeau Field back on December 2nd? The Vikes have won/covered three in a row since than- all outright upsets against Chicago and at St. Louis and Houston- and need we remind you that Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson has rushed for an amazing 1,898 yards (that's a 6.0 yards-per-carry average) with 11 TDs?

Forget the fact he's some 207 yards behind all-time season-season rushing leader Eric Dickerson and instead note that Minnesota's been without big-time playmaker WR Percy Harvin for much of this 2012 campaign and so that means even more than usual gets chucked on Peterson's shoulders.

Flashback: Remember Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries in that above-mentioned tilt in Green Bay a few weeks back.

ARIZONA (5-10) at SAN FRANCISCO (10-4-1)- 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Hey, the San Fran 49ers might be whopping 16 ½-point betting favorites for this NFC West tilt- but if they don't win it than the Seattle Seahawks could wind up winning the division and that's merely unfathomable considering the Niners were once-upon-a-time 8-2-1 and leading the pack by a country mile.

Naturally, we always come back to that 24-all tie against St. Louis back on November 11th but now San Francisco and boss-man Jim Harbaugh have to forget recent week disappointments and concentrate on straightening out a defense that's allowed 34 and 42 points the past two weeks in New England and Seattle- how about the fact the Niners allowed the Seahawks to convert on 11-of-13 third-down plays and yielded 176 yards rushing? Yikes!

On Sunday Night, it's ...
DALLAS (8-7) at WASHINGTON (9-6)- 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Forget about the so-called "fiscal cliff" ... if the host Washington Redskins don't bag a playoff spot here on this final weekend of regular-season play, than the nation's lawmakers may be blowing lots more hot air in the coming days!

Keep in mind the 'Skins win the NFC East with a prime-time win here and could snag a wild card playoff berth should both Chicago and Minnesota have lost their games in the afternoon.

The game plan here for Washington naturally includes lots of read option run/passes by brilliant but brittle QB Robert Griffin III but we'll put our money on the fact this game will be won or lost pending what Dallas QB Tony Romo can accomplish in the fourth quarter.

Romo- who has thrown for an eye-popping 4,685 yards with 26 TDs and 16 INTs this year- has helped the Cowboys win seven games this year decided by 7 points or less but note the Pokes have lost some five games decided by a full TD or less and WR Dez Bryant (12 TDs) must be a central figure at crunch time here.

Remember Washington won 38-31 in Arlington back on Thanksgiving Day as Griffin aired four scoring strikes including three in a 28-point second quarter. Will there be a similar offensive explosion here? Stay tuned- the winner grabs the NFC East in one of the crazy free-for-all seasons in division memory.

 

FRIDAY'S COLLEGE BOWL MENU

INDEPENDENCE BOWL- Independence Bowl; Shreveport, LA
UL-MONROE (8-4) vs. OHIO (8-4)- 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
We know, we know. Yet another bowl matchup pitting non-BCS conference teams against one another (the eighth bowl game as such this holiday season and there's still two more to go!) but this one has some real flavor as UL-Monroe sports thrill-a-minute lefty QB Kolton Browning who has thrown for 2,830 yards with 27 TDs (and only 7 INTs) and note he missed two regular-season games with injuries.

If Browning can shake off his early-November foot injury to form a dual-threat here than the TD-favored Warhawks should wind up in the winner's circle and how 'bout the fact Ohio RB Beau Blankenship- who averages 125 yards rushing per game this year (10th-best in the country) en route to this special school-record 1,500-yard season- quickly has become one of the best backs America still doesn't know about ... that could change here.

Spread Notes - The UL-Monroe Warhawks registered an 8-4 ATS (against the spread) mark this year that included a season-opening five-game spread winning streak. Note that ULM covered all four of its non-Sun Belt Conference games this year after going a composite 4-9 versus the vig in non-league games the prior four seasons. On the flip side, Ohio is just 4-8 against the juice this season and that includes seven-of-eight spread losses to conclude 2012 regular-season play. Also, the Bobcats have failed to cover three of their four bowl games under 8th-year head coach Frank Solich.
 
THE LAST 3 INDEPENDENCE BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Missouri - 4.5 North Carolina 41-24
2010 Air Force - 3 Georgia Tech 14-7
2009 Georgia - 6.5 Texas A&M 44-20

 

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL- at Citrus Bowl Stadium; Orlando, FL
RUTGERS (9-3) vs. VIRGINIA TECH (6-6)- 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Once upon a time these folks were Big East rivals but Virginia Tech fled for the ACC in 2004 and now- surprise, surprise- Rutgers is making a leap out of the Big East with a move to the Big 10 and so forgive the Big East officials for crying into their warm beers here!

As far as this game- the Hokies opened as a 2-point betting favorite and are back to that price tag after some slight movements- expect V-Tech to play for pride as Frank Beamer's crew looks to avoid its first losing season since 1992 and do-it-all QB Logan Thomas (17 passing TDs and 9 rushing scores in 2012) must play-fake LB Khaseem Greene or else pay the price.

The Scarlet Knights held nine foes to 20 points or less this year (including five of those opponents scoring 10-or-fewer points) and Greene remains the heart-and-soul defender while Rutgers will rise-or-fall on offense with QB Gary Nova whose 2,566 passing yards were the most by a Knights QB since 2008 but don't dismiss the 15 INTs (with 13 of 'em coming in Rutgers' shaky 2-3 SU finish).

Spread Notes - Virginia Tech enters this bowl bash at just 3-9 against the Las Vegas prices this year and so the Hokies are a collective 6-19-1 ATS since their Orange Bowl loss to Stanford at the end of 2010. In all, V-Tech is 5-16 vig-wise as betting favorites since the start of last year. Meanwhile, Rutgers is 7-5 odds-wise this year and that includes a five-game spread winning streak that stretched from Sept. 13th thru Oct. 10th and featured covers against Arkansas and Syracuse. Overall, the Scarlet Knights are 5-1 ATS in bowl games while dating back to the 2005 season.

THE LAST 3 RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL GAMES

YEAR

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

2011

Florida State

- 3

Notre Dame

18-14

2010

N.C. State

+ 3

West Virginia

23-7

2009

Wisconsin

+ 3.5

Miami

20-14

 

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL OF TEXAS - at Reliant Stadium; Houston, TX
MINNESOTA (6-6) vs. TEXAS TECH (7-5)- 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
So, former Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville has "left the building"- no doubt you heard the story of him exiting a lunch early with recruits at his table so that he could accept the same position at the University of Cincinnati- and pass-happy Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury will take over the T-Tech reigns after this game but "no-name" Chris Thomsen is the answer to the trivia question that asks who will be TT's head coach here?

Okay, so maybe it doesn't much matter considering the Big 12 team is a bloated near two-TD favorite against a Minnesota bunch that ranks a lowly 104th nationally in pass offense and 80th in rushing offense- so than it comes as no surprise that the Golden Gophers scored 17 points or less in eight games this year and Minny lost six-of-eight games where it failed to generate more than 17 points in a game.

Keep in mind that three Texas Tech players have been suspended here but none of them is named QB Seth Doege who threw for 38 TDs this year (second-best in FBS play) and he completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for a whopping 3,934 yards. Tech's scored 40+ points in seven games this year ... do we hear eight?

Spread Notes - Texas Tech is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 against the prices this year and the Red Raiders have failed to cover five of their last six bowl appearances since 2005. Note that T-Tech covered three of its four games this year when placed in the role of double-digit betting favorite. Minnesota- which blew a big-time lead en route to a 44-41 loss-but-cover against Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl (remember that loss got head coach Glen Mason fired)- is 5-7 ATS this season and that includes a shoddy 2-6 spread mark when in the dog role. 

THE LAST 3 MEINKE CAR CARE BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Texas A&M - 9.5 Northwestern 33-22
2010 Illinois - 2.5 Baylor 38-14
2009 Navy + 6.5 Missouri 35-13

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will light it up with the NFL Week 17 card this coming Sunday plus get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day too - and make you're all aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper to cash in big with all the College Football Bowl Games that roll on all week long with Thursday and Friday tripleheaders ... so don't get left out in the cold! Hey, there's still lots of College Football Bowl Games on the upcoming docket -- so click here to cash with 'em now and all throughout this holiday season! 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.

NOTE: Get more NCAA Football Bowl Previews this weekend and next week right here in Jim Sez and get more NFL Week 17 previews later this week in future must-read columns!


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